IN SUMMARY: Never Says Never was aided by the fitting of a tongue-tie towards the end of last year and may not have finished his improvement but it’s hard to get away from SOMERSET JEM, who has looked a different horse since switched to handicaps for his last two starts and is effectively 3lb well in here, having finished a clear second at Wincanton a week ago. Wilberdragon held his own in two 2m Listed handicaps in the autumn and is sure to appreciate today’s drop in class, but this trip and ground combination may stretch his stamina.
1. Heath Hunter – Three-time hurdle winner who will be suited by today’s ground; contributed to strong pace and ran a game race when fourth at Newcastle (2m, good to soft) last month; 2lb lower now and the longer trip here is probably in his favour; can give another good account.
2. Wilberdragon – Won two novice hurdles last season and made very promising reappearance when sixth in Listed handicap at Ascot (2m, good) in November; not quite in same form when sixth at Newbury (2m, soft) the following month but that also came in a Listed contest; down in grade here and a big player if coping with the increased emphasis on stamina.
3. Lightentertainment – Three of his five wins last season were gained here and the latest, at Cheltenham (2m1f, soft), came off a mark 2lb higher than today’s; good chance on that evidence but has looked badly out of sorts in recent months and has some searching questions to answer at present.
4. Never Says Never – Struck form and won consecutive starts on heavy ground when fitted with tongue-tie in late 2015 (2m1f/2m); fell when last in action and is yet to convince stamina-wise over this sort of trip, but remains quite lightly raced and further progress possible.
5. Flashman – Came good over hurdles at eighth attempt, when dominating from the front at Plumpton (2m, good to soft) on November; stays well on the Flat and ought to be suited by this sort of trip in this sphere, but is up in class today and would make more appeal on better ground.
6. Beau Lake – Won twice over 2m1f here in 2014 but been out of form since returning from absence in November and first-time cheekpieces (now removed) didn’t appear to help when tailed off at Warwick last month; sliding down the weights but needs to stage a revival.
7. Somerset Jem – Displayed significant jolt of improvement when clearcut winner of handicap debut at Wincanton (2m5f, soft) last month and also ran with credit when clear second off revised mark back there a week ago; reappears before another 4lb rise takes effect (albeit from 1lb out of the weights) and there’s every chance we are yet to see the best of him.
myracing Forecast Prices: 11/4 Wilberdragon, Somerset Jem, 4/1 Never Says Never, 6/1 Heath Hunter, Flashman, 16/1 Lightentertainment, Beau Lake