Always an ultra-competitive handicap to work through with winners in the past ten years at up to 16/1, but three winning favourites and one joint favourite so it’s not all bad! Richard Fahey won it last season with Rene Mathis and he has a few in here headed in our book by Withernsea (16/1) who will be ridden this afternoon by Paul Hanagan. Admittedly the five-year-old hasn’t scored since last November but jockey bookings suggest he is the stable number one and he ran really well in defeat last time when four and a half lengths eleventh to Dancing Star in the Stewards Cup at the Glorious meeting here. He does seem at his best with a bit of cut I the ground but there is more rain forecast and he may yet get his wish by the time the stalls open.
Further down the weights we have Shady McCoy (12/1 Each Way) and he looks to be improving rapidly judged on his recent win over course and distance when seeing off Twin Sails by half a length off a handicap mark just the three pounds less than he has to carry this afternoon. Although he is aged six he seems to be a late maturing sort and his last run was a career best effort, yet he has now won seven career starts and off a low mark here he could yet pull off a bit of a shock this weekend. We think he is well worth an each way bet to improve a step further and take this valuable contest under jockey Mitch Godwin, who takes a very useful seven pounds off his back.
Kevin Ryan is another trainer who just keeps popping up with big race winners of late and he has Big Time (25/1) entered here as the five-year-old looks to add to a recent victory over Arnold Lane at Epsom – in a lowly claimer! He won comfortably that day by an easy seven lengths and although this is obviously an awful lot more competitive, that could be seen as little more than a confidence booster though how he got put up seven pounds is beyond us. He does have plenty of decent placed form to call upon but this would still require a career best, though he may yet offer a bit of each way value at a decent price for those who like that sort of thing.
Certificate (5/1) sits a lot higher in the weights, but now the Roger Varian string are starting to hit top form again, who is to say he cannot follow up his comfortable Doncaster win off a handicap mark just the six pounds higher. If anything he may have hit the front a bit too soon that day after cruising up the leaders hard held, and if Andrea Atzeni can hold on to him a bit longer in this competitive renewal he may not be as out of this as his weight may imply.
To round things off, Above The Rest (8/1) has been quietly backed all week to go well here for trainer David Barron after his respectable third to Breakable and right touch at Chester last Saturday. Only put up a pound for that, he can’t be seen as badly weighted here and with useful claiming jockey Jordan Vaughan taking five pounds off his back he also comes in to the each way equation.