Eight runners go to post for this novices’ chase at Taunton on Tuesday, see our betting tips and the full race preview below.
IN SUMMARY: With any sort of improvement from his chasing debut, this should be a case of how far for Nicky Henderson’s TOWERING. Rated 120 over hurdles, he ran a great race on chasing debut when second behind a progressive horse who has followed up since. Conditions are to suit for today’s assignment and with any sort of natural improvement he should be able to dispatch these rivals on the way to better things. If back to form on better ground, Heroes Or Ghosts can give him the most to think about.
1 ZANSTRA – Has ran well in the main over fences without necessarily showing much progress, finishing a close second at Exeter on New Year’s Day (2m 3f, Soft) and a drop in trip didn’t suit when well beaten at Wincanton two weeks ago (1m 7f, Heavy). Back up in tirp and has to have solid claims if back to the form of his penultimate second for Colin Tizzard and Tom O’Brien. Today’s ground will suit and he looks to be a stayer at this trip, so should run well and has to be respected.
2 TOWERING – Rated 122 over hurdles and transferred that ability to the larger obstacles when second to progressive horse at Doncaster in January (2m, Good to Soft), who has followed up since. Likely to improve for that experience against arguably easier opposition today for top trainer Nicky Henderson, with this eight year old still lightly raced and should still be able to progress markedly in this sphere. Jeremiah McGrath takes the ride and with conditions to suit and him being a confirmed stayer at the trip, he should take a lot of beating with all things considered.
3 BELLS OF AILSWORTH – Three starts over fences thus far for Tim Vaughan, winning on his second chasing run with ease after his only real challenger fell earlier on in the contest (2m 7f, Good to Firm). His jumping remains of grave concern after unseating his rider early on at Market Rasen when last seen on Boxing Day (2m 5f, Good to Soft) and he certainly isn’t one to rely on heavily in that respect. 3lb claimer Alan Johns is great value for his claim and conditions are fine, but he looks likely to be fighting for places at best today.
4 HANDSOME SAM – Rated 113 over hurdles and made a modest start over fences fourteen days ago, finishing second at Market Rasen as the last finisher (2m 3f, Soft). Very hard to gauge his ability from that run, though he was very unlikely to have finished second had they all stood up. Goes up markedly in trip for his second chasing start which is likely to suit much better, as is today’s good ground so all hope is not lost for Alan King’s six year old. Possible place contender if improving but may struggle for win purposes.
5 GOLD MOUNTAIN – Only three rusn under rules for Alexandra Dunn, with his latest second at Taunton his best effort so far (2m, Good). Starts off on a mark of 110 on chasing debut which doesn’t seem him particularly badly treated, and he should take to these obstacles if his point to point form is anything to by. One of the more interesting runners with Adam Wedge taking the ride and it may be crucial to watch the market on this occasion, though he looks to have solid each way claims if jumping soundly.
6 HEROES OR GHOSTS – Had been running well this season with two good second places, the latest of which at Lingfield in December (2m 7f, Good to Soft), no match for the winner but 14 lengths clear of the third. Heavy ground on his latest start over the same C&D most likely caught him out when looking very tired, and a return to today’s ground is likely to suit much better. If returning to form again off a mark of 109 he’s likely to throw down a stern challenge and has to be respected as such for Jo Davis and Niall Madden.
7 DANVINNIE – Showed some promise in a brief stint over hurdles, rated 113 after four runs but has been soundly beaten the last twice over fences, tailing off at Leicester when last seen in January (2m 6f, Good). Hard to fancy him on that basis alone, with no concrete evidence to suggest he’s taking to this obstacles at all. Has a lot to prove today for Oliver Sherwood and likely best watched again today.
8 SOMERSET LIAS – Got off the mark at the twenty-seventh attempt when winning over C&D in November, but was subsequently found out by the 8lb rise when pulled up here again over the longer trip in December (3m 2f, Good). Back down in trip he wasn’t disgraced when fourth at Exeter a month ago but clearly needs more off this mark if he is to feature today (3m, Soft). If back to his best he’d be hard to rule out for place claims but others do make more appeal and he remains vulnerable for win purposes.