We are pretty convinced they save the hardest race for last deliberately each and every Saturday and this one has more twists and turns than a slinky.
Brian Ellison is another trainer we have a lot of time for and he looks to have brought Apterix to his peak just in time for this valuable prize. After what looked like a badly needed return at Huntingdon in January he was a gallant second to multiple winner Cotillion at Market Rasen and then saw off Celestial Magic at Ludlow last time out when brought with a perfectly timed run to get up close home. Only put up six pounds for that, he appears to be at the peak of his powers and with the better ground ideal he must have a decent chance this afternoon.
The course and distance winners deserve to be mentioned next if only because we are not asking them to do too much more than they have done in the past, and in Baby King we also have a horse in reasonable form. Trained by Tom George (wins and places a plenty in the past two weeks), the seven year old has only had a total of eleven career starts so could still have more to offer, and beat the now 135 rated Zaidiyn three quarters of a length here last November. He was getting seven pounds that day so is rated about right off of 128 today but we suspect the better ground will see more from this flat bred and he could leave recent efforts a long way behind unless the rains come, of course.
Leviathan is the only other CD (course and distanced) winner in the field but hasn’t been in good form of late hence the handicap rating of just 118 today, a full seventeen below his peak of December 2014, and nine below his best ever winning rating which he used to great effect at Ascot in the same year. Despite a few places he has never really threatened since but he has been slowly falling down the handicap and no one can argue that he has chances today off of this rating that he hasn’t had for over a year.
If you are looking for a horse who almost constantly flatters to deceive, and builds your hopes up of a big pay day, then Heath Hunter could be your man having run well without success so many times since his last win in January 2015. On a line through Zaidiyn there ought to be very little between him and Baby King today, though at the risk of upsetting his connections, we are beginning to wonder if David Pipe’s horse is putting it all in when needed and he may well have to settle for yet another place at best today.
The most in form horse is arguably Clyne, the winner of his last two races at Ffos Las and Warwick, and three of his six races over hurdles. A fifty percent return is better than most ever achieve and although he is a ludicrous nineteen pounds worse off with Heath Hunter for less than three lengths, he is improving fast enough that the weight may not be enough to stop him here if he keeps on improving as we hope he will.
Rounding off our day and John Quinn has El Beau engaged here and he is not without a chance of a place at a massive price. Although he has won a couple of races over hurdles at Musselburgh and Sedgefield he has primarily raced on the flat and has only had the one run over obstacles this season so arrives here ready to go, and with gthe4 better round right up his street and a sensible handicap mark he may outrun his expected double figure price.