11 runners have been declared for a competitive renewal of this Grade 2 novice hurdle Read on for our full race preview and betting tips.
IN SUMMARY: In a high-class novice hurdle that contains both strength and depth, the vote goes to COO STAR SIVOLA. Nick Williams’ 4yo was in the thick of things throughout and ran an excellent race when close third in the Fred Winter handicap at the Cheltenham festival in March, and could have more to offer now upped in trip. No Comment, a bumper winner at the Punchestown festival, is reportedly held in high regard by Philip Hobbs and is feared on his hurdling debut. Very good cases can also be made for the two Paul Nicholls-trained runners, Bagad Bihoue and El Bandit.
1 Two Taffs – Suffered interference when fourth in what is always a hot handicap at Sandown (2m4f, soft) in April and was well on top in the closing stages when opening his account at Ayr (2m5f, good to soft) the following month; carries a 7lb penalty now back in novice company but has a part to play.
2 Bagad Bihoue – Dual bumper winner who has won all three hurdle starts easily, the last two over 2m2f at Stratford in August; likely to face a much tougher examination in today’s company and Sam Twiston-Davies prefers El Bandit, but it’s very hard to gauge the limit of his ability.
3 Birch Hill – 2-8 over hurdles after hard-fought success at Market Rasen (2m4f, good) in August; that form has been well advertised by the runner-up but is still below the required standard here and others have more obvious scope for improvement.
4 Canton Prince – Displayed improvement when 12l winner of Fontwell bumper in August, his fourth start, and is 2-2 since switched to hurdles, the wins gained at Fontwell (2m1f, good) and Worcester (2m4f, good); worth his place in this line-up but will probably need to improve his jumping.
5 El Bandit – Not an instant success over hurdles but has won his last three starts, the latest in good style from a decent yardstick at Fontwell (2m5f, good) in June; clearly heading in the right direction and expected to makes his presence felt.
6 Mirsaale – Useful Flat-racer who has taken well to hurdling this summer, twice winning easily over 2m at Perth; that form lacks depth but, given he stays 2m on the Flat, there’s every chance he’ll be suited by today’s step up in trip; impossible to rule out.
7 Three Ways – Won a run-of-the-mill Stratford bumper (2m2f, good) on hurdle debut in March but looked well held before final-flight fall when upped in class at Cheltenham the following month and will need to improve to get competitive here.
8 Washed Ashore – Has begun hurdling career with two narrow-margin wins at Worcester (2m, good); the bare form is nothing to get excited about and his jumping has not been entirely convincing, but there’s a strong suspicion we are yet to see the best of him; tries a new trip today.
9 Coo Star Sivola – Placed in the Grade 1 Finale Juvenile Hurdle here (2m, heavy) in January and ran a huge race when close third in the Fred Winter 4yo handicap at the Cheltenham festival (2m, good) in March; that form makes him a strong contender if today’s longer trip suits.
10 No Comment – Highly regarded gelding who delivered on earlier promise when winning 24-runner bumper at the Punchestown festival in April; looks an exciting recruit to hurdling and Philip Hobbs is evidently content to throw him into Graded company for his first start in this sphere.
11 Valadom – Ran well in three cross-country chases at Cheltenham last season and made all over normal fences at Uttoxeter (3m, good) when last seen in May; can exploit his novice hurdle status at some stage, but probably not at this level.
myracing Forecast Prices: 7/2 No Comment, 4/1 Two Taffs, El Bandit 9/2 Bagad Bihoue, 5/1 Coo Star Sivola, 14/1 MIrsaale, 16/1 Canton Prince, 25/1 Washed Ashore, Valadom, 33/1 Birch Hill, 50/1 Three Ways