Nigel Twiston-Davies has always held Ballyandy in high regard and he’s one of three who are currently vying for favouritism. A winner of the Champion Bumper last season, he’s been given a mark of 135 for his handicap debut having posted three respectable efforts in defeat so far this season. Has been given a break since a close second to Messire Des Obeaux who has franked the form since, surely has more progress left in him and this race is likely to have been the plan for some time.
Second to The New One at Haydock last time out was Clyne who is now as short as 4-1 with some firms having been well supported since that run. Is due to go up 5lb in the handicap after this race which means he’s well handicapped on that form. Had previously won twice at the same track, has a progressive profile and the soft ground is sure to suit having raced on easy going throughout his career.
The other horse who is prominent in the betting is Movewiththetimes who has only had four runs to date and was last seen winning a novice hurdle at Wincanton. The form of that race hasn’t worked out too well since and starts life off in handicaps with a mark of 136. Had previously finished just a length behind Ballyandy at Cheltenham giving him 4lb and was hampered at a crucial stage. Although he’s a potential improver now sent handicapping, he looks a short enough price based on his form to date.
Alan King will be represented by William H Bonney who travelled well when winning a competitive handicap at Cheltenham on trials day. Improved plenty for his seasonal debut that day but King reported afterwards that he still felt the horse would have needed another run having had a setback in training at the start of the season and his win at Cheltenham should have put him spot on for this race. Has a 5lb penalty to contend with in a stronger contest but is clearly held in high regard having run in the Supreme Novices Hurdle last season.
Seven-year-old Song Light has some good form to his name in similar races to this one and posted his best effort to date when third in the Greatwood Hurdle at Cheltenham in November. Has been given a 3lb rise for his efforts but the form of that race has worked out well and, although he hasn’t been seen since, this race is likely to have been the plan for a while and should run his race once again.
An impressive winner of the Adonis Hurdle last season was Zubayr whom trainer Paul Nicholls has likened to Zarkandar who won this race back in 2012. He looked held when falling at the last in the Elite Hurdle on his seasonal debut and ran disappointingly at Sandown afterwards. In my opinion, his future lies over further and he also looks a chaser in the making.
Irish raider Veinard has been running consistently this season and went close in a strong handicap at Leopardstown last time. He has 3lb extra to carry in this race compared to the others which will make life tough as he doesn’t look obviously well handicapped and he doesn’t always find as much off the bridle as you might expect looking at the way he travels.
Wait for me looked the winner for a long way last time at Cheltenham when finishing fifth behind one of today’s rivals William H Bonney. Clearly has plenty of ability and was a good fourth in the County Hurdle at the festival last season but his jumping still isn’t polished and it’s hard to see him reversing the form with that rival today, despite being 5lb better off.
Similar to Veinard, De Name Escapes Me has extra weight to carry compared to his rivals and hasn’t been seen since finishing down the field in a strong handicap at the Punchestown Festival. Has only had five runs to date and was a dual winner over hurdles at the start of last season but he’s clearly had his problems having had substantial breaks in between runs. Also runs without a hood having worn it the last twice and Barry Geraghty has chosen to ride the other McManus owned runner Movewiththetimes.
Dual performer Beltor beat three of today’s rivals at Kempton last time out when he looked the winner before making a mistake at the last which proved costly. A decent juvenile, he landed a gamble when bouncing back to form on the flat at Kempton in December. A 2lb rise for his latest effort seems fair although two of the rivals he beat that day have progressed since then and will need a fast pace as he tends to race keenly.
Kerry Lee has been in good form of late and runs Gassin Golf who will be wearing a tongue-tie for the first time and will be suited by the drop back to two miles having finished fifth at the course over 2m5f last time out. Has some decent form to his name but looks vulnerable against some unexposed rivals.
Kayf Blanco has some respectable form to his name, most notably when third to Brain Power at Sandown on his second start this season but was disappointing last time over further at Exeter. Capable of out-running his odds if he bounces back to form but looks high enough in the handicap at present judging by his recent form.
Nigel Twiston-Davies also runs Ballyhill who has been kept busy in novice company throughout this season and this will be his first run in a handicap. Starts life off in handicaps with a mark of 136 which looks fair judging by his novice form and Tom Humphries takes a handy 7lb off but has run below par on his last two starts and needs to bounce back.
The handicapper has given Hargam a chance dropping him to a mark of 146 having been rated as high as 157 in the past. Posted a couple of decent efforts in graded company last season and clearly has plenty of class but is hard to recommend on his last two runs.
Another trainer in decent form at present is Warren Greatrex and he runs Boite who wears cheekpieces for the first time. A ready winner at Wetherby on his seasonal debut but disappointed next time at Newbury. The extra trip was potentially the reason for a below-par run that day but needs to progress again even on his best form to be competitive today.
Current outsider of the field is Eddiemaurice who returned to form beating two reappearing rivals when finishing a close fifth in the same handicap Beltor was third in at Kempton. He’s only 4lb above his last winning mark and it wouldn’t surprise me if he did outrun his odds.
Verdict: This year’s renewal lacks the class compared to previous years but is still as competitive as usual and the selection is William H Bonney who travelled well when winning last time out, is progressing nicely and I’m sure Alan King has had this race in mind for a while as he felt his win last time will have put him right for this race. Song Light is sure to run his race again having gone close in the Greatwood Hurdle in November. The well supported Ballyandy should be able to go close off a mark of 135.
1) William H Bonney 2) Song Light 3) Ballyandy