Earth Leader – A horse who has done nothing but improve since he won his maiden back in March. It is hard to win a maiden, a restricted and an intermediate back to back and he then added to that with a Hunter Chase win at Fontwell. I know the race fell apart because the 2nd and 3rd went off too fast, but I was still impressed with the way he won and he looks to have a strong chance here.
An Scairp – Been kept to 2m4f and 2m5f in his 4 points and he won 3 and was a neck 2nd in the other one. His best run form wise was when he was 2nd to Abriocot De L’Oasis who won a Hunter Chase last season as he didn’t beat a great deal in his wins. Capable of running well although needs to find a little to be capable of winning.
Buck Dancing – Nothing wrong with his pointing form and he has even won twice since he ran poorly at Hexham in the Heart Of All England. You may remember I really fancied him for that on the back of his previous form, but after a blunder at the 5th he didn’t travel after that. The winning time at Easingwold was quick on his next won and then he had a simple task at Sedgefield on Sunday. He certainly has some of the best pointing form in the race and if he can get it together back under rules he will go close.
Castle Cheetah – Doesn’t seem to stay 3m in points and dropped to 2m4f he won his Restricted earlier in the month. He is 11 though and although he hasn’t seen much racing it will be disappointing if he proved good enough to win this.
Chapelier – Had won 4 on the bounce in points this season, but struggled really badly at Cheltenham in the Intermediate Final. Hard to fancy him on the back of that and his pointing form wouldn’t be as strong as some of these.
Cheltenham De Vaige – Won 4 of his last 5 points although probably fortunate to win 3 starts back as the favourite slipped up before 3 out and was going well. Not sure he has achieved the level that some of these have in points.
General Arrow – On a line through Legal Ok he has a few lengths to find on Earth Leader as he only beat him by 15L last time, but I think General Arrow has a good chance here. That race was over 2m4f after he had won his Restricted and Maiden over 3m. He clocked good times in the process so we know he stays 3m, but has the pace for shorter. He also front runs which is a plus round here as well. Should go close.
Pancrace – Another front runner who I thought ran well at Cheltenham until he didn’t see out the trip and ended up getting very tired in the ground. He has come out and one a weak race since so he looks to be over the Cheltenham efforts. On pointing form he has a bit too find, but on the back of the Cheltenham effort it wouldn’t surprise me if he ran well at decent odds.
Soul Kaliber – Had a good season finishing either 1st or 2nd in his last 6 starts in points. Looks solid enough, but there looks more progressive types to me.
Kayjaydee – Only had 16 starts despite being 12 and was missing for 2 years until his pulled up run in March. 2nd and then a winner since which weren’t bad efforts, but there are more progressive horses than him in this.
Tangoed – Went under rules after winning a maiden in 2017, but after two good bumper runs he was a massive disappointment over hurdles. He was sold again and returned to pointing this season. He unseated when beaten first time out in December, but on his next start in April at Larkhill he won by 25L. He then won his Intermediate earlier this month. The question is how he will handle going back under rules and he is yet to go over fences if he takes to them though he could run well.
Summary – Earth Leader, Buck Dancing, General Arrow and Pancrace are the 4 on my shortlist. Earth Leader might well win, but he shouldn’t be odds on to win this. I think the other 3 are all backable prices with General Arrow being my pick of the 3.
Net D’Ecosse – Wasn’t given the most sensible ride in the world at Lingfield on his first start after wind surgery as he helped forced a strong pace in soft ground. He ended up pulling up that day and he wasn’t seen until last month when he was a decent enough 2nd before hacking up at Northaw. That wasn’t a strong race, but he’s likely to be prominent and the drop down in trip doesn’t look the worst move in the world.
Tusa Eire – A staggering training performance to get him to win at Fontwell after 4 years off the track. That wasn’t a strong race though and this will be tougher.
Witness In Court – Battled well to win at Fontwell, but this race looks stronger to me and I just wonder this trip will be on the short side for him.
Brave Jaq – Ran a hell of a race in this last year to be just collared by Robin Des People on the run in. Last season he was very keen and always set a very strong gallop. This season he has been a bit more calmer and he won well over 2m5f in March. Clearly this drop in trip won’t bother him and he will be up there. Had no chance behind Risk A Fine last time and must have a good chance although the forced jockey change isn’t ideal.
Llancillo Lord – Won on his pointing debut at Maisemore although that race fell apart and it was a very weak contest he won at Fakenham. He was then collared late on by Greensalt at Kelso where his jockey picked up the ban that forces him to miss tonight as he eased up for 2nd. He did run well over 2m at Chepstow in November and he was 2nd over 2m to Presenting Percy in Ireland as well. I think he needs to step up a bit on what he has shown so far this season, but he has a good jockey booked and he might just improve for dropping down to this trip.
Beau De Tabel – No chance
Bletchley Castle – His one really bad run this season was when he pulled up behind Brave Jaq here in March, but as I pointed out last week at Huntingdon his jumping is a massive concern and one terrible mistake that night cost him the race. He won’t get away with that here in this deeper race. Could be interesting if him and Brave Jaq did go hell for leather up in front although Brave Jaq sat in 2nd behind him in March. If he doesn’t make a mistake then he might be capable of winning of this, but I think that is a pretty big if.
Boher Call – Unlikely to be troubling the leading contenders.
Bubble O’clock – Was left to a solo after 25 yards when winning his maiden and was a very easy winner of his Restricted a week later. Made all that day which I struggle to believe he will do here and this is a much stronger heat.
Downbythestrand – A 19L 4th to Brave Jaq here in March and this drop in trip doesn’t look like it will help him reverse the form.
Mr Sawyer – 2nd in this in 2016 but a well beaten one and the P’s have continued to mount up since. Now his handicap mark is down to 78 I’d be tempted to try him in a handicap again over this trip, but hard to see him winning this.
O Maonlai – Had the perfect opportunity to win a race at Fontwell and blew it. He even had an easy lead that day and he just looks a horse who is going to do everything he can to get beat.
Red Inca – Was 2nd behind Tusa Eire and O Maonlai at Fontwell and as I have already mentioned its hard to see that form being good enough to take this.
Velvet Maker – Was a 21L 5th in this last year and didn’t run well in his only other run since which was at Ludlow over hurdles in November. If he returned to his peak form he would have a right chance in this, but he just looked a bit laboured in his 3 Hunter Chase runs last season.
Village Vic – His Newbury run wasn’t bad although his Cheltenham effort wasn’t great and its hard to think this sharp test is going to be what he needs.
Summary – I think this is between Brave Jaq, Llancillo Lord and Bletchley Castle. I’m surprised that Village Vic is favourite and I struggle to believe he will start the race as the market leader. Brave Jaq for me is the main bet with savers on the other two.
Casey Jem – Only had 4 starts and fell on the first of them back in December. He then won to points before winning a Cork Maiden Hunter Chase last month. He was very impressive that day and the 2nd has won a Hunter Chase since so the form looks solid enough. He still looked green on the run in as well so every chance there should be more to come. Regular readers will know I have rated the UK Hunter Chasers higher than the Irish this season, but that was at the top level and I think he has a big chance he.
Changeofluck – Likes this meeting as been 3rd in the Restricted race 2 years ago and then was 3rd in this last year. I didn’t think he was given the best of rides at Cheltenham as he was up with a strong pace and went very wide. If held up here it wouldn’t be a huge shock if he hit the frame again, but he would be a surprise winner.
Chase Me – Was well beaten at Warwick last week and hard to see how he can win this based on that effort.
Law Of Gold – The last time he was beaten was by General Arrow so if that one wins the first then it will boost his form. He won his next 3 although the last one earlier this month was a match. Others have achieved more and I’m not sure he can improve enough to land this.
Pink Eyed Pedro – Pulled up in this last year, but he did lead briefly fairly late on before his stamina gave out in the ground. Still not sure how he didn’t win a handicap last year off 93 especially after he was impressive in winning the Dunraven Bowl last time. It certainly helped that the 2nd didn’t jump well, but even so it looked a personal best. If he stays, and if they haven’t over watered he might well do, then he has claims.
Winged Leader – Got some decent placed form in Ireland this season including his 2nd to Rewritetherules (who was entered for this) at Down Royal last time. Last year’s Stratford Foxhunter winner Chosen Dream was back in 3rd so that is decent form. He looks capable of running well to me.
In Arrears – Won her 2 Hunter Chases by 22L and 23L, but she didn’t really enjoy the quick ground at Exeter last time and they were both weak races. She was well beaten at Ascot and if they haven’t over watered then it is hard to see her being good enough to land this.
Kalabaloo – Took her form to a new level when beating Theatre Territory at Cheltenham last time and was impressive in doing so. The problem is Theatre Territory found nothing for pressure so there is a slight question mark about how much she did achieve, but she has an obvious chance.
Summary – A surprisingly small field for this championship heat. For me Kalabaloo, Pink Eyed Pedro and the two Irish runners are the ones to concentrate on. I was really taken with the way Casey Jem won last time and I am just siding with him with a saver on Kalabaloo.
Seefood – Made a winning debut for the yard at Leicester in February and although it wasn’t a strong renewal of that race it was still a good win. He was still traveling well within himself when unseating at Bechers at Aintree and then he had a very easy win at Easingwold. Looks to have a leading chance.
Virak – Was put in his place by Hazel Hill and Caryto Des Bosses at Cheltenham last time, but prior to that was 5/5 in points and Hunter Chases this season. Did well to win at Ascot after making a really bad mistake and beat a solid yardstick in Queen Olivia. Thought he did well at Ludlow to beat Now Ben even for allowing for the fact that one bled. Has an obvious chance in this.
Big Casino – Did win on his first start for over a year in April when beating Garde Ville but that was over 3m4f and this drop in trip isn’t going to help and would be a surprise if good enough.
Brackloon High – Doesn’t always put it all in and likely to find a few too good here.
Cloudy Joker – Went missing for 3 years before returning earlier this month when finishing 2nd. He won a couple of weeks ago, but he only beat Fair Exchange that day and that gives him a bit to find with the best of these.
Kriss William – No chance.
Meldrum Lad – Has looked really good in 3 points this year and has clocked some quick times. Was capable when he ran under rules in the past. Beat Buck Dancing a head last time and given how good he has been in points this season that is a really good effort. Gives the trainer a very strong hand along with Seefood.
Patricktom Boru – Run in this race for the last years and has managed 4th, 2nd and a well beaten 3rd last year. No doubt he will go well again, but its hard to see him winning it.
Ar Fheabhas Ar Fad – No chance.
Summary – Looks a 3 horse race to me with Virak, Seefood and Meldrum Lad the 3 to concentrate on. I’m going to side with Seefood who comes here fresh whereas Virak has been on the go since December and had a hard race at Cheltenham. Seefood was one of my bets at Aintree and he was unlucky to depart when he did. Justin Landy has a strong hand and Meldrum Lad is worth a saver at the price.
Asockastar – Did me a huge turn for us at Fakenham last time when winning as the outsider of 3 and it was a dominant performance. Was a good 2nd in this last year, but it was a strange race on over watered ground and as much as I can see him running well I think they should have run him in the handicap on the card.
Ballyrath – Has won 3 times in points this season, but this is a tough race to make his Hunter Chase debut n and would be a surprise winner.
Caryto Des Brosses – I’ve not exactly hidden my thoughts on how good I think this horse is and as much as Hazel Hill didn’t run to the same level he did when winning the Foxhunter, it was still a huge effort to run him so close. He looked very good when winning the Restricted race on this card last year and there should be more to come. The one concern is that he had a hard race at Cheltenham, but it was only his 3rd run of the season and he’s had nearly a month to get over it. As I said in my review of Cheltenham at this stage he is my idea of the 2020 Cheltenham Foxhunter winner and he can take the Stratford one first.
Chosen Dream – Won this race last year at huge odds although the trainer apparently fancied him! He didn’t come into the race in great form and he hasn’t exactly done an awful lot this season either. I’m always wary of horses who are proven here, but at the same time I struggle to see him winning this for a 2nd time.
For ‘N’ Against – Ran much better than I thought he would at Fontwell, but that is a long way below what will be needed to win this.
Garde Ville – Won the John Corbett last year, but surely can’t land this given the form he has been in so far this season and he’s had a lot of racing in the past month.
Sambremont – The 2nd Irish challenger, but he’s only won once this season and he certainly isn’t running like the 134 horse that he is currently rated under rules.
Wonderful Charm – Been 3rd in this race the last two years, both were good efforts as he found himself outpaced at a crucial stage in 2017 before he stayed on well late and then was a 9L 3rd on the over watered ground he wouldn’t have enjoyed last year. Given he loves fast ground its amazing he’s only got to run twice and one of those was on soft ground at Aintree which he hated. Showed he still had lots of class at Doncaster though. My concern is he doesn’t handle the track which is going to hinder him, but if they haven’t over watered then this is certainly a weaker race than 2017.
Summary – Top Wood and Caid Du Berlais were both entered and their absence means this isn’t really a renewal which has much depth to it. I would be amazed if Caryto Des Brosses or Wonderful Charm doesn’t win and firm preference is for the former who I think can go onto even better things next season. Asockastar is the pick of the rest.
Risk A Fine – The weather did for him at Cheltenham and I am sure in hindsight connections wish they hadn’t run him in the end. In my review of that meeting I mentioned this race looked the obvious target and it is no surprise he has turned up here. His course and distance win in April was one of the performances of the season for me and he should be able to dominate this small field.
Road To Riches – A superb 3rd in the Aintree Foxhunter, but the rest of his form hasn’t been great. The Carlisle 2nd wasn’t strong form and neither was his win their 10 days later. After Aintree he pulled up at Fairyhouse and was a well beaten 2nd to Southfield Vic last time. As much as I am not a Maxwell basher the jockey change is obviously a plus, but he just looks to have lost his form and I don’t think he will be able to catch Risk A Fine.
Sam Cavallaro – Won the Cheltenham 2miler for the 3rd time last time and he looked in decent heart. To be fair to him as well he has beaten two horses who have gone on to win Hunter Chases on his last two starts. Stratford doesn’t suit him as well, but he was only just beaten in this race off 104 in 2017. He was then a well beaten 4th last year off 109. He is off 115 now and although he gets a lot of weight from Risk A Fine I don’t think it’s enough.
Crazy Jack – A very well backed and a very well handicapped winner of this race last year, but he is 2lbs higher and just hasn’t been in as good form this time around. No doubt this has been the target again, but I think he will do well to win it for a 2nd year.
Numbercruncher – Bolted up in the 2m race on this card in 2017 and although he won a point last time he hasn’t been in great form this season. That win was over 3m, but this trip stretches him in my view.
Summary – Firmly in the Risk A Fine camp here and I think we can get back our losses from him at Cheltenham. I know he has a big weight, but its fully deserved for me and we know he is very good over this course and distance. I think he will make all and they wont see which way he goes.