NAP can prove well ahead of the handicapper
Cover on one that has been missed in the market
Chance Petit to improve for fences
It is a smashing race with plenty to consider, including the likely SP favourite in Calico, who will undoubtedly prove popular, having chased home Jonbon on two of his last three starts. However, I am of the impression that he was slightly favoured by his racing position from well off the gallop at Aintree, having seen Jonbon record a slower three-out-to-finish time than the 3m Handicap winner Midnight River with the circuit times, suggesting they went too hard up front.
He will need a career-best on seasonal return while all four victories have come in the new year.
Triple Trade is of interest and clearly on the upgrade, having run a very good race here on return 20 days ago behind Dancing On My Own. A repeat of that will see him go close, although he did struggle to go the gallop early on and lost his position down the field. He needs a really strong test at this 2m distance, and he is one I am keen on when moving back up in distance.
Cases can be made for one or two others. The booking of Harry Cobden on Gold Des Bois catches the eye, and he is fairly treated to the best of his form, including here.
Still, I want to back two in this race. The first is Ballybreeze - 5/16.00 on the Betfair Sportsbook - who is impossible to ignore from a handicapping perspective.
He is sat on a very workable rating of 120 and was an effortless winner on his chase debut at Chepstow last October over the 120-rated Mascat. He clocked a useful speed figure when winning in a canter.
He was then put away and brought out for the Arkle at the Cheltenham Festival, where he had no right to run, given he would have needed to run 40 pounds above his official rating of 120 to be in the frame.
Perhaps that was just a day out for connections, but they must have thought he was better than 120 even to consider entering him. Still, while he was beaten 40 lengths as his rating suggests he would have been, he went well for much of the contest and had no issue laying up with the early strong gallop.
He was in contention when looking to improve all known form at Market Rasen in April before a sloppy mistake saw him take a soft fall. He was well in contention and was asked no questions when coming down three out.
He deserves a chance to prove that he is well ahead of the handicapper, as his last two RPRs suggest.
Back him at 4/15.00 or bigger.
Madara - 14/115.00 on the Betfair Sportsbook - was going well enough on British debut when unseating his rider three out and would have surely made the frame when running three pounds out of the handicap. He looks over-priced, considering he moved past Triple Trade easily there and was yet to be asked for an effort.
He is an unexposed four-year-old who could easily have more to offer, and because he was an unfancied 33/134.00 chance last time, he looks to have been missed by the market. He is worth a small each-way cover bet, with this being easier on balance than that task.
Back him at 10/111.00 or bigger.
If there's an Arkle contender - which is highly unlikely - in this race, then it could well be Petit Tonnerre - 3/14.00 on the Betfair Sportsbook - who had the best form over hurdles despite suffering defeat on too many occasions last term.
He finished out last year with an excellent seventh in the County Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival and, before that, had left Homme Public in his wake when running home strongly at Ascot.
It's easy to ask questions such as, where would JPR One finish in a County Hurdle off 140, and the answer is probably nowhere. JPR One ran a good comparative time at Newton Abbot to Complete Unknown, but you'd have to argue that the return run from the Nicholls horse in the comparative race was well below his best from last term.
JPR One went off the outsider of three at Newton Abbot despite a receipt of 15lbs from Iceo, in which the favourite failed to give his running and was beaten 13 lengths. Even on the bare figures there, JPR One, at a big push, ran to 140, but considering the runner-up was rated 128, who was two lengths behind closing to the line, he has probably only run more realistically to 134.
A repeat would not be good enough while he was only slammed into favouritism earlier this week when word got out that Unexpected Party was going to the handicap contest.
The best performance put in over fences to date of this quartet is Homme Public, who clocked a similarly good time figure when scoring readily at Wetherby when conceding experience to a seven-runner field. The fourth has since given that form a good boost, and Oliver Greenall and Josh Guerriero's six-year-old showed plenty of speed between his obstacles and is one of those horses that fences have seemingly made quicker.
However, he is a good ground horse, and today's further testing conditions should concern backers.
Mighty Tom was flattered by his finishing position behind the very smart Letsbeclearaboutit, having been held up drastically off of a very strong pace, and he managed to pick up the pieces when all those bar the exceptional winner faltered.
Overall, it's worth chancing Petit Tonnerre to improve for the switch to fences at the first time of asking and emulate Laylor, who won this race the first time up.
Back him at 3/14.00 or bigger.
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