Racing expert Rhys Williams has lined up three worth chancing today, with one prepped and ready at Carlisle, whilst two take on an odds on shot over at Catterick...
"Highland Hunter looks a class above these and this might be a stepping stone to the Midlands National for him."
Conditions at Carlisle will be extremely testing and that's ideal for Highland Hunter. He made a promising chasing debut at Chepstow last time in a strong novices' handicap chase before falling at the last. The 2m7½f trip on soft ground looked a bit on the sharp side for him so the step up to 3m2f on heavy ground will likely see him to better advantage, being 3 from 4 on such ground.
The market has correctly identified him as the most likely winner but I think he should be shorter than 7-4 given the opposition. Thomas MacDonagh looks far from a certain stayer, Lithic continues to run well but seems very good at finding a way to not win, Snuff Box will love the ground but is unreliable and Innisfree Lad has to show he can continue his resurgence for his new yard, something which hasn't happened with others moving from David Dennis.
Highland Hunter looks a class above these and this might be a stepping stone to the Midlands National for him.
The fifth hunter chase of the year in Britain takes place at Catterick and two trainers responsible for three of the four hunter chase winners so far this year have the front two in the market. Wishing And Hoping heads the market for Mel Rowley and he looked a very promising hunter chaser last season. However, he's not run up to that level on either start this season which is concerning.
He usually goes well fresh so his unimpressive victory at a track that suits him perfectly at Maisemore on his first start of the season was concerning and he's since been beaten by Premier Magic at Chaddesley. If he bounces back to the form he showed last season then he will be tough to beat but that's a big 'if' at the moment.
Haymount, who finished third in the 2017 National Hunt Chase at his peak, is Tom Ellis' representative in the race. He's yet to run this season but it's concerning that his form continued to decline last season. He was well beaten at Fakenham and ended the season with an unconvincing victory at Dalton Park. The other concern for Haymount is that he's shown a tendency to jump to his right of late, particularly in the closing stages of races, which clearly would be a negative at this track.
I'm taking on these two horses with another pair who also have questions to answer but look to have been underestimated by the market. Duhallow Tornado finished 3¼ lengths behind Wishing And Hoping at Maisemore which was a good effort considering the track wouldn't have suited and he made an awful mistake at 2 out.
He was since switched to run for Tim Fitzgerald in a 4 miler at Hexham and ran well for a long way before not seeing out the extreme distance. The ground will suit Duhallow Tornado but his jumping is a concern. It was poor at Hexham and it's let him down on other occasions in the past. I think he has the ability to challenge Wishing And Hoping if he jumps adequately but it's the concern over his jumping which means he's a win only bet rather than an each way proposition.
Bradley Gibbs' horses have been in flying form this season and Rio Bravo looks to add to the tally of winners. He will have to improve on the form he's shown in points but that was also the case with Highway Jewel and Premier Magic prior to them winning at Chaddesley so it would be no surprise if he was to achieve likewise here.
It's also easy to forgive Rio Bravo's defeat at Chipley Park on his only start of last season as he got into a battle way too far out on the very stiff track and understandably didn't see out the trip. I think this sharper track will suit him and he can prove to be more of a danger than his price suggests. He's also only a win only proposition as his chance relies on Gibbs getting the same improvement out of him as he has done with others.