Around the mark on opening day but nothing really to show for it. The Place 6 ticket was looking nice until Sod's Law deemed that the only leg we had one out went down. Paid a whopping £804.62 for those who collected.
Day two kicks off with a devilishly hard hurdle with a swathe of chances. Whatsupwithyou ran fourth in the Martin Pipe at Cheltenham behind some handy types and gets his chance to go even better here with useful claimer Kevin Brogan aboard. Topweight Wilde About Oscar has won four from five over hurdles, his only blemish being in the Challow behind the high class Bravemansgame. Edwardstone keeps running honest races high in the handicap, (third in the Betfair Hurdle, fifth in the Coral Cup) and will be in this for a long way.
Nightboattoclyro completes the quartet, he won a trio of handicaps in the winter on left-handed tracks and returns to favoured conditions at a price. Watch out for Monte Cristo who was staying on well in the Coral Cup before being hampered by a faller at the final hurdle.
Whatsupwithyou, Wilde About Oscar, Edwardstone, Nightboattoclyro
Top Novices' Hurdle
Belfast Banter takes his chance in this after Cheltenham success but let's be realistic, he was bottom weight in a handicap and now goes up to G1. Thirs Time Lucki meets him a stone better for a 3.25L defeat. Dusart looks a very smart type for Nicky Henderson, beating Betfair Hurdle winner Soaring Glory at his only start. Ajero and Any News both look suited on drying ground, while Houx Gris had a boom on him before finishing fourth in the Boodles at Cheltenham. A weight concession here gives him a shot while For Pleasure beat Third Time Lucki in November off level weights and ran third in the Supreme, albeit beaten 26L. A dry track won't harm his chances.
One at a massive price to watch out for is Bombyx. He's had two runs for Lucy Wadham after 20 months off but his Flat form is pretty handy, running against Ghaiyyath (world's highest rated horse last year), Aspetar (ran in the Cox Plate), Polish (now a handy hurdler of this sort of class) and Cross Counter (Melbourne Cup winner) back in 2017/8. A bit early for him to be contesting Grade 1s after winning two much weaker hurdles, both in March, but a big run for a place wouldn't shock me. Good race.
Dusart, For Pleasure, Ajero.
Mildmay Novices' Chase
Chantry House will start clear favourite after winning the Marsh Novices' at Cheltenham, albeit after the odds-on favourite Envoi Allen fell early. He might just bolt in but I'm prepared to take him on as he steps up to three miles, a move which will much better suit Shan Blue who finished behind him at the Festival. Fiddlerontheroof ran second to Monkfish in the 3m Novices Chase at Cheltenham and has been one of the leading lights for the Tizzard stable who have fairly ordinary year by their standards. Sporting John is better suited on wet ground while Espoir de Romay faces a big rise in class. Silver Hallmark might be one to cause a surprise, he was beaten a head by Fiddlerontheroof in his chasing debut in November then beat the highly-rated Allart in January. Prepared to punt on further improvement at the double-figure odds.
Silver Hallmark, Shan Blue, Fiddlerontheroof
Fakir D'Oudairies switches to this race instead of a G1 at Fairyhouse last Monday, when he was clear favourite. He's a frustrating horse, finishing second in his last five completed races (pulled up in the Savills Chase over Xmas). No doubt he'll be in the mix again but you'll soon go broke backing him. Dashel Drasher won three races in a row at Ascot over the winter but has since dodged drier tracks, despite four hurdles earlier in his career on good/good to soft. Politologue is a horse I've never warmed to, and probably wants the ground a bit softer. However Paul Nicholls has started the meeting on fire. Notebook looks the one to be with. In 15 starts under rules, he has only been unplaced three times - all at Cheltenham where he just doesn't fire. All his success, including two wins over Fakir D'Oudairies, has been in Ireland on flatter tracks like Naas, Leopardstown and Punchestown. So either he likes flatter courses or he doesn't travel well. At 7/1 in a field of horses I keep finding fault with, I'm happy to side with him not liking Cheltenham.
Notebook, Fakir D'Oudairies, Master Tommytucker
Livelovelaugh looks like the perfect type for a handicap like this with narrow defeats in big Leopardstown handicaps at his last two runs, but he's won once (back in January 2018!) over fences from 18 starts. Sir Jack Yeats has raced over these fences three times and completed each time - a big tick. In December, he ran second in the Grand Sefton off the same weight, and since then has been kept ticking over at his local track Fakenham with big weights and modest performances. That looks like mark preservation to me, and down on the bottom weight, with his preferred drier surface, he has a great shot here at 25/1 or better. Modus hasn't run since finishing just behind Sir Jack Yeats in December but he has a history of running well off a break (60-460 days!) so no qualms there. Two For Gold was on my shortlist for the National early in the season and has been running consistently so I'm be mad to leave him out. Ravenhill Road posted a career-best last time after a wind operation, so there may still be more to come for the 10yo.
Sir Jack Yeats, Modus, Two For Gold, Ravenhill Road
Sefton Novices' Hurdle
Bravemansgame had his heart broken by Bob Olinger in the Ballymore and steps up to three miles here. The race looks at his mercy if he has recovered fully from that. Trusting Paul Nicholls seems like a good policy after day one. Gallyhill, Oscar Elite and Streets of Doyen are in the mix for the place money. Cape Gentleman is talented but switching from two miles up to three will be a fair training feat - Emmet Mullins might just be that genius though.
Bravemansgame, Streets of Doyen, Gallyhill
Pinsent Masons Handicap Hurdle
The kind of race where the best starting point is the McManus string. Camprond is a former French galloper who beat the useful Defining Battle in a maiden at Taunton recently. They beat the third by 13L and the runner-up had just run behind Good Ball who won a good Cl2 handicap at Newbury a fortnight. Camprond has plenty to learn as a hurdler but the talent is obvious. Tomorrow Mystery has been campaigned with a race like this in mind - a win in November off 124, an odds-on failure a week later which promptly saw him get a wind operation, then only a jumper's bumper win since, perfect to keep him within the range of a Festival handicap like this one.
Copperless won at Taunton on the same day as Camprond in a novice hurdle, but comes out with a lower mark and a larger claim here. The runner-up Chez Hans gave a boost to that form by winning at the Somerset track on Thursday. Leoncavallo was up on the pace in the Martin Pipe but just starting to falter when he clattered the last and faded into sixth. Back half a mile in trip, this is not beyond him. The Grey Falco hasn't seen a track this firm but has form through Calico and Cape Gentleman which will be verified or otherwise in the previous race. Tough race but you could do worse than back the McManus pair.
Camprond, Tomorrow Mystery, Leoncavallo, Copperless
Whatsupwithyou EW 16/1 take as many places as you can
Notebook WIN 7/1
Sir Jack Yeats EW 33/1 Paddy Power six places
Camprond + Tomorrow Mystery WIN 8/1 + 5/1 = 18/5
Colossus ticket - join my syndicate
1,2,11,15 x 1,4,6,7 x 4,5,6 x 3,6 x 3,5,16,27 x 4,13