IN SUMMARY: Three of the last four renewals of this contest have been won by the favourite and it will be no surprise if the Sue Smith trained BLAKEMOUNT goes off a short price to land this years’ contest. The 8 year old Presenting gelding ended last season on a high note with victory in a Class 3 Novices’ Chase at Carlisle, beating Run Ructions Run. He was a very decent hurdler and was only beat a short head by Urban Hymn in the Grade 2 Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle at Doncaster in 2014. If he can transfer his hurdles form to the bigger obstacles, he will have no problem landing this contest off a mark of 131 before moving on to bigger and better things.
1 LORD WISHES – Smart 9 year old gelding trained by James Ewart. Three time winner this year, twice over fences and once over hurdles. Hacked up by 12 lengths over hurdles at Hexham in June before following up in Class 2 company over fences at Cartmel off 127. Won at Wetherby off 133 last month but has to bounce back from Cheltenham flop when last seen, beat over 100 lengths.
2 APTERIX – Two time flat winner, bumper winner and three time hurdles winner who has yet to taste success over fences but this is just his 2nd start over the bigger obstacles. Beat 11 lengths on chase debut when last of the four runners at Wetherby last month but should come on heaps for that.
3 LOUGH KENT – Last success came over fences off a mark of 124 at Warwick last year so he looks really harshly treated off a mark of 131. He has been pulled up on two of his last three starts and was beat out of sight in between so he has a lot to prove and is still too high in the weights.
4 BLAKEMOUNT – Very talented hurdler who was only beat a short head in a Grade 2 at Doncaster in the past. Finished last season on the crest of a wave with a good victory over fences at Carlisle and if he is fresh after a break he is the horse they all have to beat. Could potentially be much better than these.
5 RAKTIMAN – Inconsistent performer who was beat 48 lengths over hurdles when last seen, clearly in need of the run. Stayed on well for pressure to win by 10 lengths at Catterick in February off a mark of 121 and if he could reproduce that run, he is not out of this off just a six pound higher mark.
6 ALDERBROOK LAD – Very exposed 9 year old gelding who boasts course winning form but he has been beat a total of 100 lengths over his last three starts and needs to show a lot more before he can be considered a betting option. Best watched for now.
7 EDMUND – Winner over fences six times including two over this course and distance last season and he was given a beautiful seasonal opener here at the end of last month, finishing 6th and not knocked about. He has to be highly respected on a track he adores, the biggest threat to our selection.
8 DURSEY SOUND – J P McManus owned horse and like all of his runners, watch the market to learn more. When money comes for his horses’, more times than not he collects. This horse won at Hexham in September but was pulled up last time out. Still would be foolish to dismiss him.
9 ROXYFET – Three time winner in 2016 to date, two of which were over fences. His last success came in a small field affair at Catterick off a mark of 107 and it will take a massive effort to land a much tougher race like this off a mark of 115. Easy to oppose for us.