This is a Class 2 handicap over 2 miles 4 furlongs, see our betting tips and the full race preview below.
IN SUMMARY: With Donald McCain’s Clondaw Kaempfer now a non runner this looks like a good opportunity for hat-trick seeking FREE STONE HILL. The yard are in red hot form and this progressive type still looks well-treated at the weights despite the 7lb penalty. Lithic should get in contention if he handles this extra distance.
1 DELL’ ARCA – Relatively consistent sort and David Pipe’s runner arrives here on the back of a success at Ascot early last month. That came in a conditionals event and he won a shade comfortably that day which is evident in the 5lb rise he’s been handed by the handicapper. This ground is ideal for him and the step up in trip shouldn’t pose an issue so he should certainly enter calculations in this. Yard without a winner from their last 9 runners.
2 JACKS LAST HOPE – Also arrives here on the back of a success last time out which came in the same conditions as today’s ground and trip. That came as something of a surprise having been sent off 16/1 but he did it well enough and a 4lb rise in the weights doesn’t look heavy-handed from the handicapper. However, he’s going to require a career best now off a career high mark of 137 and he may be worth taking on in this.
3 CLONDAW KAEMPFER (non runner) – Was running a mighty-fine race in a Grade 3 over C&D last month before hitting the last and losing all hope of threatening the winner. He raced better than his finishing position suggests and he’s likely to put in another fine run here with a 6 week break and off just a 2lb higher mark. The blinkers are kept on and if they have the same effect today he’s going to be dangerous here.
4 QUERRY HORSE – Lightly-raced sort who has recorded three victories in nine career starts. He’s switched to hurdles today for the first time since April last year having struggled over the bigger obstacles on his last two starts. He resumes his hurdling career off a 6lb lower mark than when last seen in handicap company which will help but he has a few questions to answer in this and others make more appeal.
5 NATAHANS PRIDE – Has struggled in two big field handicaps following a 2 3/4 length success at Aintree back in May 2016. He arrives here off a 127-day break which will have given Tim Vaughan time to work with him and freshen him up and this ground looks ideal for this C&D winner. More will be required off a mark of 127 and he’s probably worth taking on again here although the stable do have a 13% strike rate at Aintree.
6 LITHIC – Another lightly-raced sort and he was only beaten a length at Cheltenham last month off a 3lb lower mark. This is certainly stronger than that race but he showed clear progression that day on better ground and he’s worthy of his chance here now stepped up in trip. He is up against some decent two and a half-milers here so he will have to prove he fully stays the trip but he’ll be dangerous if he does. Respected.
7 ZALVADOS – Has placed on each of his last 5 starts and he’s paid for his consistency, shooting up the handicap to a mark of 124 (up 10lbs from his handicap debut). He’s shown a clear level of ability over 2 miles and like Lithic, will need to prove he fully stays this trip and he will need to progress again to defy this higher mark. The stable have sent out one winner from their last 3 runners and he’s worth a market check today.
8 CLASSIC TUNE – Ran an absolute screamer last month to win a handicap off a mark of 112 with an SP of 66/1. The handicapper has raised him 6lbs for that effort and he will need to improve again and prove that wasn’t a freak performance. He may need some rain to arrive to be seen to best effect here but he’s unexposed and does receive a fair bit of weight from his rivals.
9 FREE STONE HILL – Dan Skelton has been in fine form of late with a 34% strike rate in the past fortnight and he runs an interesting sort here. He’s won two on the bounce and seeks a hat-trick here with a 7lb penalty following a success at Stratford just 11 days ago. He’s clearly well-treated at the weights although he’s another that is up in trip and has some stamina questions to answer. However, he looks to be progressing at a rate of knots and should be dangerous in this.