Neil King’s Silent Steps sneaks into this off a nice racing weight and was an impressive winner ten days ago. That was the seven-year-olds first win under rules having spent time in the care of Nicky Henderson and Paul Nicholls without success. This confidence boosting run may turn this former point to pointer winner inside out and she’ll be difficult to contain under Bryony Frost.
Synopsis tops the weights and makes the trip across the Irish Sea from the Gordon Elliott stable. The son of Azamour undoubtedly has the ability but doesn’t get his head in front too often and there is no room for error off a career-high mark.
The Bay Birch was a decent mare when trained in Ireland but she took her form to a new level last season when winning four times and finishing second in a listed chase. She showed that she is still on a workable mark when third in a decent handicap chase at Newbury at the beginning of the month.
Selection: Silent Steps
The top weight for the feature race sponsored by RaceBets is Kansas City Chief. We have yet to see Neil Mulholland’s inmate this season, with his last run coming behind Delta Work in the Pertemps Handicap Hurdle. He races here off a two pound lower mark than that Cheltenham run, but it’s worrying that he’s never won on seasonal debut.
Crixus’s Escape is the most lightly raced horse in the field with only four career starts to date. He’s won two of these starts and lost all chance after a bad mistake at the third flight at Carlisle on seasonal debut. There is definitly untapped potential and this horse could just be anything.
Knock House represents the Donal McCain yard and in his RaceBets blog, Donald outlines this classy geldings chances.
The front-running Valadom is a late recruit to the hurdling division having spent most of his career over the larger obstacles. The promising conditional Rex Dingle takes the reins and he should go close.
A jockey that really excels when riding from the front is Sam Waley-Cohen and he partners Theatre Territory here. She ran a fine race from the front on seasonal debut at Cheltenham in November and given that she hasn’t been out of the first three in her last seven starts, she will be many peoples idea of the winner.
Cogry who finished runner-up in the Scottish two season ago, generally struggles to get his nose in front but wears his heart on his sleeve and is a horse that racing fans love. Nigel Twiston-Davies gelding finished ten lengths behind Rock The Kasbah at Cheltenham most recently but has a six-pound swing with that rival this time around.
The aforementioned Rock The Kasbah got a nice trip when winning at Cheltenham and I think he’ll struggle to land to back to back victories here.
Neil Mulholland’s Doing Fine rarely runs a bad race and finished a credible third last race when staying on well up the hill. Doing Fine was last seen when finishing fourth in the Scottish National and should once again give his running.
Singlefarmpayment also ran in the Cheltenham race won by Rock The Kasbah and has never been out of the first five when standing up at Prestbury Park. He re-opposes off the same mark here and must go close.
This race should prove very informative for Cross Country race at the festival as it gives us a rare chance to see horses run over this niche track.
Josies Orders is a regular in these cross-country contests and was a somewhat snug winner here back in November. Enda Bolger the “King of the banks” will be hoping he can land back-to-back cross country contests and holds leading claims of doing so.
Another horse that hails from the JP McManus and Enda Bolger academy is My Hometown. The free-running gelding was an impressive winner over the banks’ course at Punchestown last month and although this wasn’t the strongest contests, he may be dangerous if getting a soft lead.
Wounded Warrior is having his first start for new connections having been bought out of Noel Meades following his last run. The former Gigginstown House Stud-owned gelding finished third in the RSA back in 2015 and was a winner at the Punchestown festival last April. That victory showed that he retained plenty of ability and could be a very shrewd acquisition for his owners and trainer Sam Curling.
Ballycasey is an intriguing runner for WP Mullins; he has some very classy form in the book and if he takes the course and gets an easy lead then there may be no stopping him. The other if is, will he stay? Rich Ricci’s grey has predominantly campaigned around two miles, so it’ll be interesting to see if he can see out this marathon trip.
Jamie Snowden must have been over the moon with how Fact Of The Matter took to the discipline when he pushed Auvergant all the way here in November. There shouldn’t be much between the pair again here and arguably there could be more improvement to come from him.
Selection: My Hometown
Worthy Farm is a worthy favourite for this having won pretty well on just his third carer start on the track. The Paul Nicholls’ trained gelding showed signs of greeness when hanging inside the final furlong and should have learned plenty. It’s hard to get a handle on the form but he’s an exciting horse.
David Harry Kelly sends over Great Trango and this much-raced gelding has already proved a great servant for connections having never finished out of the first four in fifteen starts. The handicapper has taken no chances giving him a mark of 133 and I think he’ll struggle here.
Aaron Lad was a very commanding winner at Market Rasen when last seen in action, under Charlie Hammond. The promising jockey maintains the partnership here and he looks like a horse on a real upward curve. If he is to win this, then he’ll have to defy a career-high mark but with the progression, Dr Richard Newland gets from his horses this is very plausible.
Clondaw Native has only got a maiden hurdle victory at Ascot to his name and reverted back to hurdles most recently having not taken to chasing on season debut. This most recent run was a step in the right direction and if he can continue to progress then he may not be badly handicapped.
Dans Le Vent was one of the best bumper horses two seasons ago, which included a sixth-place finish behind the ill-fated Fayonagh in the Champion Bumper at Cheltenham. He contested a pair of Grade 1’s last season including a sixth-place finish Santini in the Sefton Hurdle at Aintree. Jamie Snowden’s stable star has already run well in a brace of handicap hurdles. He now races off a one-pound lower mark and looks sure to run well.
Selection: Dans Le Vent