A field of ten go to post for the penultimate race of the day at Prestbury Park on Thursday, see our betting tips and the full race preview below.
IN SUMMARY: Many of these arrive on the back of victories, with that including Swincombe Scorchio, Ten Sixty, Boa Island and Better Days who all have solid claims to the race, but this can go to David Pipe’s FATHER EDWARD. Although perhaps disappointing for the majority of this season, he was always going to struggle in the Topham Chase at Aintree and likely needs this longer trip at this stage in his career. Back up to over three miles, the handicapper has relented another 3lb with this only being 3lb higher than his win back in August at Cartmel. Conditions are to suit and David Noonan takes the ride, so he is worth a chance in this.
1 MR SHANTU – Showed good form for the majority of the summer for Jonjo O’Neill over hurdles and won on his sole chasing exploit so far, jumping well when storming past the eventual second who threw the race away by almost pulling himself up in front of the winning post. Regardless of the fact he was gifted the victory, it was still a pleasing debut over fences and a mark of 132 on handicap debut in this discipline could underestimate him. He does have a 234 day absence which is a slight concern, but he has the ground to suit and stays this trip strongly, so he is one to consider.
2 BOA ISLAND – Seven year old for the champion trainer Paul Nicholls who has been very up and down over fences, though has shown good enough form that brings him into the equation. He won his first two starts over fences with ease and although he didn’t improve from those in four starts afterwards, he got back to winning ways on his latest start at Chepstow, driven clear to a seven length success after his main rival fell at the last, though he looked held by Boa Island. Up 7lb in a competitive affair though Jack Sherwood negates three and he has definite place claims, but may just be vulnerable for win purposes this time around.
3 SWINCOMBE SCORCHIO – Lightly raced seven year old who made his on track debut when fifth at Hereford in December, showing little promise for Polly Grundy. He did show some encouragement when forth at Exeter in February but still looked to be a poor handicap prospect, he did however prove that to be completely untrue when storming home for second behind Rock The Kasbah at Chepstow two weeks later at odds of 100/1. On handicap debut on his latest start at the same venue he ran out an easy winner over slightly shorter, where he could be called the winner a long way from home. As a result he’s been raised 15lb which is a huge hike, but he should improve for the step up in trip and still remains unexposed over fences. Very good chance and has to be respected under James Best.
4 FATHER EDWARD – One win from nine starts over fences with that only win coming at Cartmel back in August where he was a comfortable winner of a class two handicap. He hasn’t however hit those heights in five runs since, with that perhaps due to the fact he was raised 13lb for that easy victory. His mark has been slowly coming back down due to his poor performances, though he wasn’t necessarily disgraced when ninth in the Topham Chase at Aintree on his latest start. He’s down 3lb on the back of that effort and is in much calmer waters, so isn’t one to discount now only 3lb above his last winning mark (he’s also won off higher marks in the past over hurdles). He’ll also be much happier back up in trip and with conditions to suit, he looks likely to throw down a strong challenge under David Noonan.
5 TEN SIXTY – Rated 127 over hrudles and although he made a slow start over the larger obstacles with two poor efforts at Leciester, he got his act together to win comfortably at Newbury in March. He’s been raised 7lb as a result but is only on a mark of 127 which is the same as his one over timber, so surely more can be expected in this discipline. He’s likely to go close if taking another step forward and with the Hobbs team in such brilliant form, that looks very likely. He should stay this longer trip and looks a likely main player under the champion Richard Johnson.
6 BELLS OF AILSWORTH – In good heart at present with two wins from his last four runs, with the latest of those coming on his penultimate start at Taunton in February, showing a willing attitude to keep on strongly. Raised 3lb, he was far from disgraced when third at Newbury in a hotter race, keeping on dourly towards the line. On that basis this extra distance should suit and he’s proven he can stay 3m 1f in the past when winning at Huntingdon over hurdles, so there has to be optimism in that regard. The ground conditions are fine and Alan Johns takes off a useful 3lb, so there is no reason why he wont go well again off the same mark. Place claims.
7 GOOHAR – Won on his penultimate start at Towcester in a lower grade than this but up 8lb in a deeper race he was found out, well beaten here in January when weakening badly after three out. He now takes a big step up in trip which isn’t guaranteed to suit after the way he weakening out of things on his latest start, with the handicapper only dropping him 2lb and this race still being competitive. Conditions to suit and Jake Greenall takes the ride, but others have much sounder claims on this occasion.
8 FACT OF THE MATTER – Consistent sort over fences thus far for the in form Jamie Snowden yard, with two victories and a placed effort out of four runs over fences. He was a good winner at Exeter on his penultimate start when staying on well to land the spoils, though when raised 8lb he did struggle to get to the leaders when well beaten at Exeter in November, though stayed on for a modest third, beaten by 17 lengths. This longer trip should suit on that evidence with the stamina test the Cheltenham Hill perhaps playing into his hands, remaining on the same mark as his latest run 162 days ago. May do better after a break and definite place claims under Gavin Sheehan.
9 BETTER DAYS – Another who arrives in good heart with two victories from his last three runs, taking the latest of those at Wincanton when staying on strongly to hold off the challenge of a persistent rival who he was giving over a stone to. He showed determination and guts in that run and he should relish this step up in trip, with a 4lb rise perhaps fair on the back of that run. He does need more now in tougher company but he does have the services of Sam Twiston-Daives again and conditions to suit. Interesting contender and needs to be considered.
10 GET INVOLVED – Highly tried this year with six runs already for Robin Dickin, though he has been placed on two occasions. On his latest start at Chepstow he was unable to go with Boa Island who comfortably beat him by seven lengths, with it doubtful he can turn form around as that rival now has cheekpieces on and much more scope for progress over fences. Seems to not be improving at this stage in his career and others are far more interesting.