A field of eight go to post for the third race of the day at Taunton on Monday, see our betting tips and the full race preview below.
IN SUMMARY: Improving under front running tactics of late, A Little Magic may struggle to get an easy lead in this so this can go to MR MEDIC. He has been transformed by the switch to the bigger obstacles this season, winning both his starts comfortably. He’s been penalised 11lb for his latest success at Lingfield, but the way he came clear and won easily by twelve lengths suggested he had much more left in the tank. He should have far too much potential for these and can improve again to readily dispatch these under James Best.
1 A LITTLE MAGIC – Has been transformed the last twice by the switch to front running tactics with two victories for Jonjo O’Neill, the latest at Catterick at the expense of Nine Alatrs (1m 7f, Good). Up another 5lb for this and he does still have potential for improvement, but the main concern is that fact he is unlikely to get a soft lead in this. That may well scupper his plans, coupled with the fact he has to shoulder a huge weight of 12st 7lb in this. Likely to give it a good try but should fall short with all things considered.
2 HELIUM – Has been running reasonably well of late without managing to take victory, finished third at Sandown on his latest start and only beaten around four lengths. Down another 2lb but is still perhaps vulnerable to a better handicapped horse, as he hasn’t look particularly threatening of late. Place claims for Alexandra Dunn and Adam Wedge with conditions to suit but others look far more likely for win purposes in this.
3 JABOLTISKI – Has been frustrating to follow this season for Philip Hobbs with two flat efforts over fences the last twice, the latest of which when pulled up at Exeter on New Year’s Day after weakening tamely after the eleventh (2m 3f, Soft). Down in class but has a lot to prove at present, coming up against some in form rivals. Conditions are to suit though and he has Richard Johnson on board, so he isn’t devoid of hope by any means. Possible place claims and would be dangerous to discount entirely.
4 LOU VERT – Rated 117 over hurdles and far from disgraced on chasing debut when second at Ludlow (1m 7f, Good to Soft) and now has a solid base to build from. He should now be capable of better up in trip and does have potential for improvement in this sphere a lightly raced five year old. Likely to be a main contender for Paul Nicholls and Sam Twiston-Davies and has to be respected, as more can be expected in time.
5 BISE D’ESTRUVAL – Has failed to complete on both runs for Nigel Twiston-Davies since joining the yard from France, unseating the rider on British debut at Ffos Las before pulling up at Ludlow in January. She made multiple mistakes that day and weakening tamely before pulling up, not looking a likely winner for future races. Best watched again until she shows some meaningful form.
6 MR MEDIC – Rated only 93 over hurdles but he has been transformed for the switch to the bigger obstacles, winning both his races over fences in convincing fashion. He ran out an impressive winner on his latest start at Lingfield in November when effortlessly going clear to win by a growing twelve lengths (2m 4f, Good to Firm). He gave the impression much more could be expected that day and an 11lb rise looks unlikely to stop him from running out a ready winner again with conditions to suit for Robert Walford. Has to be respected and will take a huge amount of beating.
7 BACK BY MIDNIGHT – Impressive winner at Sandown by in December when making all in good style but has struggled in three runs since, never looking threatening when well beaten at Southwell last month (1m 7f, Good to Soft). Soft lead unlikely with A Little Magic in the field and he still seems high in the weights, 4lb above his last winning mark. Conditions to suit and James Banks takes the ride but others are much more likely and is perhaps best watched until the handicapper shows him some more leniency.
8 MOSCOW ME – Hasn’t been at his best this season over either hurdles or fences, last seen when third at Leicester, well beaten (1m 7f, Soft) after weakening tamely. He has defied a higher mark in the past but at the age of ten improvement is unlikely to be forthcoming and others are probably better treated on balance. Conditions to suit and Henry Oliver has had a winner recently, but he has far too much to prove at present to be backed with any confidence.