It is really difficult to get away from SOLO (4/1 Betfair, Coral, Bet Victor) such was the nature of his impressive UK debut. That win (by 13 lengths from Fujimoto Flyer) entitles him to maximum respect and a repeat level here would see him tough to beat.
Goshen and Allmankind have also been impressive and the pair are unbeaten over hurdles wit three wins apiece. That experience may stand them in good stead but the former hasn’t looked the most natural of jumpers while the latter is headstrong and will find it hard to make all. I think the main danger may be Aspire Tower who won his first two starts for Henry De Bromhead with the minimum of fuss. However, he is another ex-flat horse that races keenly and getting home may be the issue for him. He fell last time when under pressure and that is another negative but he is respected as is the improving Sir Psycho who appeals most of those at double figure odds.
Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle
Last year’s Champion Bumper form is working out really well with Envoi Allen winning here on Wednesday and and Abacadabras nearly taking the Supreme on Tuesday. THYME HILL (11/2 Betfair, Paddy Power, Boylesports) can add further lustre to that form by winning this. His transition to obstacles has gone well, beating useful types such as Fiddlerontheroof and Champagne Well with authority while progressing the level of his form. He looks a tough horse who stays well and would appear to have all the tools necessary for this test.
Latest Exhibition and Monkfish could potentially provide stiff challenges but Harry Senior is going the right way and could be the one to focus on of those at bigger odds.
A fascinating renewal in which I think the three to focus on are those at the head of the market. Al Boum Photo has been given a quiet prep with just the one run this season, an easy win at Tramore on New Year’s day. You can’t knock his form but I’d like to have seen a bit more of him and that light campaign just niggles a bit.
Santini has not been everyone’s cup of tea but he had Delta Work behind when second in last year’s RSA Chase here. He propelled himself into the reckoning for this with a three and a half length defeat of Bristol De Mai in the Cotswold Chase. The trainer has reached for the cheek-pieces here which is a negative for me and I don’t think he has shown the consistent high level that Al Boum Photo has displayed and he looks too short in the market for me.
DELTA WORK (11/2 Betfair Sport), third in the RSA last year, has improved this season and looks relatively uncomplicated. His win from Kemboy in the Irish Gold Cup last time marked a coming of age for him. That form would see him go close here. He stays well, doesn’t mind soft ground and looks a solid option.
Of the others Lostintranslation went from hero to zero after flopping in the King George. He has to bounce back from that but prior to it had looked a stayer of real potential. He has yet to really prove it in against these tough stayers in a race of this nature but he’s not readily discounted. Another year’s experience may benefit him. Clan Des Obeaux I like but his overall level of form may be a bit short and this is a different proposition to Kempton where he’s won two King George Chases and put up his best performances. Kemboy is greatly feared. He wasn’t far behind Delta Work at Leopardstown (closer than when behind the same horse in the Savills Chase) and looked back to the sort of form that saw him develop a fantastic record last season. He could be the main danger.
County Hurdle – SAINT ROI (13/2 Bet365) could be the answer to a typically tricky County Hurdle. Has had just two runs for Mullins since coming over from France, winning the second of those starts very easily beating Arcadian Sunrise who has won twice since. Unexposed, from a top yard and potentially a massive improver Saint Roi is the choice while Aramon, You Raised Me Up and Thatsby are taken from a long list of alternatives.
The Foxhunter’s – BILLAWAY (6/1 Coral, SportingBet) has youth on his side and looks to be nearer the finished article this season. He beat market rival here Staker Wallace comfortably last time and has had a light campaign, presumably with this in mind. Patrick Mullins on board and a big run expected. Alcala is feared as is Minella Rocco who seems to have regained some of his old mojo of late.
Grand Annual – Greanateen arrives with strong credentials after winning 5 of his last 6 starts for Nicholls. Only up 3lbs for that last win he is likely to be hard to beat. At nearly treble the odds though, PALOMA BLUE (11/1 generally) looks worth taking the favourite on with. He has a 4lb pull for a two and a half length beating by Eclair De Beaufeu last time. Paloma Blue was hampered at the last that day which probably cost him a length or two. He’s been solid all year and, with the yard in good form, this could be his chance to land a decent prize.
Martin Pipe Conditional – Gordon Elliott targets this and has 5 runners here, all of whom have possibilities. COLUMN OF FIRE (13/2 Bet365, Bet Victor, Paddy Power) appears to be the one the stable fancy and his excellent third in a highly competitive and valuable handicap hurdle on his handicapping debut last month gives him every chance here. Favourite Front View has good credentials and is the main alternative.