Won by some big priced horses in the past, this 3 mile handicap is wide open as expected.
Now a 10 year old, Opening Batsman (9/1 Each Way) is still proving hes got the ability, finishing a good 3rd here over C&D in May, an admirable effort off of top weight. His return this season at Sandown wasn’t as expected however, finishing a tailed off 5th of 5, struggling for a long way but it is possible to forgive him that effort. What does concern however is his effort in the race last year, as he travelled up strongly towards 3 out and found nil when asked for an effort, weakening rapidly to finish nearly 18 lengths off the lead despite being upsides at 2 out. Clearly he is vulnerable to fresher legs at his age but he does continue to pop in some good efforts from time to time and could be a good each way angle into the race for Harry Fry and The Twelfth Man Partnership.
Bitterly disappointing since winning in the style of a promising novice at Newbury back in February, Out Sam (9/2) has really been struggling for form, well beaten in three of his last four runs, with the fourth when falling in a Grade 3 at Cheltenham when already given reminders. If back to his best he’d have a good chance of being in the thick of the action today but its hard to be confident with how poor he’s been for majority of this year and he’d be risky to back. Rated 3lb lower than when starting off in handicaps, Warren Greatrex will need to have worked wonders with him back at home if he’s to take a prominent role in the race.
Now rated 8lb higher than for his last handicap win, Bally Longford (6/1) has put in some good displays of late including when a close 3rd in a Grade 3 at Cheltenham earlier this month, travelling well but not finding much up the hill and the drop back to 3 miles seems a smart move. The forecasted good ground is a plus to him and he should run his race again in the colours of the Potts, but may just be settling for places again with him likely to find a few too good in this.
Paul Nicholls had a few entries in the race and More Buck’s (9/2) continues to improve, winning his last two races, the latest when upped to this trip at Sandown in an amateur riders handicap, he did however idle very worryingly in the closing stages which is a concern. There is no doubt he’ll need further improvement to have a prominent role in the race, but he’s still lightly raced for his age and with how well the Nicholls yard is going at present (34% strike rate in the past 2 weeks), he is worth a look in the market.
To end with, and what do we make of Buddy Bolero (16/1) who has his first run for Mark Pitman this afternoon having raced for David Pipe and then Tony Martin for the majority of his career. He was highly regarded at one stage and thought of as a possible Grand National horse, but hasn’t been seen in anger since the 2015 Cheltenham Festival and it will take some training performance to have him race fit this afternoon. Last time out he was a very good third to The Package in the Kim Muir, giving weight to the two in front of him which isn’t bad form at all. Perhaps surprisingly he has been dropped five pounds since then in the handicap and if he is fit, he may well run in to a place.