IN SUMMARY: Lightly raced chaser Three Faces West finished a clear second over C&D last month and that piece of form was boosted when the winner finished second in the Midlands National on Saturday. He needs to be taken very seriously but his tendency to race lazily is a slight concern and preference is for AZURE FLY (10/1 E/W), who ended 2015 on a low note but will be better suited by the faster ground here and has a good record when fresh. The selection’s stablemate, Drop Out Joe, is also a player if able to bounce back from a disappointing run, while Bertie Boru is on a workable mark if he can avoid jumping errors.
1 Drop Out Joe – Second of two wins with cheekpieces added in the autumn came in valuable Badger Ales Trophy at Wincanton (3m1f, good); has a point to prove after returning from break with disappointing run this month but subsequent 3lb drop helpful and he’s not yet fully exposed.
2 Just A Par – Finished strongly to win bet365 Gold Cup at Sandown (3m5f, good) on final day of last season but has made jumping errors and been well beaten on both appearances this term: this race is a bit easier but he remains on a fairly tough mark and may find 3m a bit sharp nowadays.
3 Howlongisafoot – Gained convincing win at Taunton (2m5f, good) in November but failed to complete his next two starts and ran in snatches when soundly beaten on his latest outing; will be suited by today’s trip/ground, but needs to get his career back on track.
4 Azure Fly – Ended 2015 with a poor run on soft ground but will be better suited by today’s underfoot conditions and has a good record when fresh; current mark is workable, so no surprise if he makes his presence felt after 97-day break.
5 Three Faces West – Won three novice hurdles in early 2015 and has finished second in first two chases this year, more recently when behind recent Midlands National runner-up Milansbar over C&D (soft) last month; untested on ground quicker than soft but still goes on the shortlist.
6 Bertie Boru – Ran very well when fourth in valuable event at Sandown (2m5f, good to soft) in December but made too many jumping errors that day and mistakes have also spoiled his chance on his last couple of outings; on handy mark but comes with obvious risks attached.
7 Godsmejudge – 2013 Scottish Grand National winner who rediscovered some form when second to progressive rival at Doncaster (3m, good to soft) in December, but failed to build on that performance when favourite for a veterans’ contest over that C&D last month; continues to slip down the weights but needs first-time cheekpieces to give him a lift.
8 Wilton Milan – Form dipped after narrow win off today’s mark at Lingfield (2m7f, heavy) in November but he took a decent step back in the right direction when fourth in military riders’ race at Sandown (3m, soft) recently and will be fine on today’s faster ground.
myracing Forecast Prices: 9/4 Three Faces West, 5/1 Godsmejudge, 7/1 Drop Out Joe, Bertie Boru, Howlongisafoot, Wilton Milan, 8/1 Azure Fly, 12/1 Just A Par