Blow By Blow
He was obviously beaten a long way on his reappearance over hurdles at Carlisle, but that was his first start since April for his new stable. He was clearly a very smart chaser for Gordon Ellliott on his day and a reproduction of his narrow Grade 2 second this time last year would make him a major player off his falling mark. But whether he is in the form to exploit it, we shall see. He also has his stamina to prove.
He was meant to run at Cheltenham last Friday, so hopefully he can gain compensation here. A very smart novice hurdler at his best, he was obviously very good indeed when beating Reserve Tank in the soft on his chasing debut at Chepstow, and the classy runner-up confirmed the merit of the form when winning at Wincanton. He has to carry a 7lb penalty here, though he gets a 4lb allowance at the same time because of the race conditions, and I don’t think the longer trip will be any concern. He has improved since Chepstow, and is set to run another big race.
Although he was beaten a fair way in the end, I thought he shaped well enough for me at Cheltenham last month. He is obviously a lot higher than when progressing to win at Ayr and Chepstow on his last two starts last season, but trip and ground are no issues here, and he will come on for that reappearance run. This looks a very tough race but the stable continue in good form and he is lightly-raced over hurdles.
He has run okay on his first two starts of the season, and he has come down 5lb for them, too. I certainly think he ran far better than his final position suggests at Exeter last time, where the ground was more good than soft and he found that 3m too sharp a test in the conditions. He tends to reserve his best for Cheltenham and he is obviously getting on as a 12yo now, but we know he stays this longer trip so well, is ground-versatile – any more rain will not be a negative for him – and he is on a very good mark. I wouldn’t swap him for anything else in the race and I think he has a massive chance.