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They jump at Stratford this teatime, and the going is good to soft.
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4.35 Stratford: Quite a nice little Class 4 novice chase, and Pateese is the one, I think. He's run all bar one of his five chase starts in higher grade, but the one effort in this level was a win, and it was on this sort of ground at this sort of trip. There is a possibility that he's a little paceless, but then that's a comment which can be applied to his rivals as well..
Of most interest from the rest is the ex-Irish Maller Tree. Rated as high as 138 (to Pateese's 140) in Ireland over hurdles, Maller Tree could make up into a nice chaser. But the fact he's owned by a punting 'firm' and that there hasn't been a penny for him might suggest he's expected to win a handicap at some point rather than crippling his rating by winning this. I could be wrong on that - I often am - but I won't be wagering this talented beast today.
Although Sail And Return has won on heavy, he's arguably better on decent ground, and the other two might be a bit too good for him. Likewise, Kindly Note has a stone and more to find on hurdle ratings and has looked very one-paced.
If there's an outsider to consider here, and I'm not sure there is, it might be Mountaineer, which has been persisted with after no less than 1,616 days off the track! He could travel well for a long time and, if he doesn't blow up for lack of fitness, has a touch of class.
A - 2 (Pateese)
5.05 Stratford: Killyglass is a very nice horse. He won the Aintree Grade 2 bumper (and I backed him - and tipped him on here at a price - that day). If he jumps round, he'll win. He will jump round. He will win.
A - 2 (Killyglass)
5.35 Stratford: From the straightforward to the borderline impossible. I couldn't have a bet in this, as there is no clear angle into the race. No clear pace angle, no clear class angle, no clear going angle, no clear form angle. Very tough. I'm going deep on the placepot and looking for a result.
A - 3 (Catch Tammy), 5 (Julie Prince), 6 (Cruise In Style)
B - 2 (Giant O Murchu), 4 (Rime Avec Gentil)
6.05 Stratford: A good race this, and a real chance of it being run at a robust gallop. All of Letsby Avenue, Dirty Bertie, Dawn Commander, Benbane Head and Court In Session often front run, and they can't all lead. This might well set things up for a strong-travelling closing type, such as the class rising Staigue Fort or the class-dropping Topolski.
And it's the latter I like. Winner of a nice handicap at Aintree's Grand National meeting a couple of years ago, he looked to lose his way a bit last year. But a run of real promise was produced on his first seasonal start this term, when cruising into things before perhaps running out of stamina. He drops back a quarter mile here and, with so much pace in front of him, could have this dished up turning in.
If one of the pace protagonists is to prevail it might be Benbane Head, another classy sort in the context of this race. He won a fairly moderate handicap at Ffos Las the last day, but stays a bit further than this and that bonus stamina might see him slog on when others are crying enough. Letsby Avenue is another with stamina to spare, and he's progressive too.
This is a fair step up in grade for Ironical, but he's a course and distance winner and will love the ground and the pace. He too might benefit from being kept away from the presumed burn up in the first third of the contest.
A - 1 (Letsby Avenue), 3 (Topolski), 6 (Staigue Fort)
6.35 Stratford: Let's start with the pace. Epee Celeste, a big price at around 18/1, may have this to herself early. She's got stamina aplenty too, and jumps very well. For small money, she might give you a something to cheer turning in.
At the sharper end of the market, the likes of the returning Al Alfa and the gambled Watch House hold live chances. The former is probably the only pace danger to Epee Celeste, and has been known to make it. He's had just one chase start, when second over slightly further and slightly softer, and he goes well enough fresh as demonstrated by a win in February this year after three months off.
Watch House is a more precarious proposition, as form figures of PPP1 at this trip reflect. His sole win was last time, off the same mark as today, just a week ago. I'd be disappointed if he was good enough to win, in truth, despite a career best last time. He doesn't seem the sort to rely on to reproduce that.
More reliable - as long as the ground is no worse than good to soft - could be Font, a course and distance winner last time out, and a horse that still looks well handicapped against the pick of his form. He's fair value at as big as 11/1 with Hills.
The Goldmeister is a twelve race maiden, but he's got bits of place form, and comes from a yard in form. The weight of cash for him suggests he could run well, but there just seem to be more likely candidates in the race.
Just keep an eye out for a possible improved performance from David Bridgwater's Academy General, too. He might have hated the firm ground last time, and has top weight here for a reason: he's run a better race than most of these historically, the one behind Bold Chief. It might not be today for him, but he's likely to have a day, and his trainer is likely to know when that is.
A - 2 (Al Alfa), 3 (Font)
7.05 Stratford: The nightcap is a bumper, which is unlike Stratford, who have tended to put the flat race in the middle of the card, to the consternation of some purists. Chalk It Down is a once raced winner, and is the favourite here for Warren Greatrex, AP McCoy and JP McManus. Of those with form, he has the best. He also has a seven pound penalty for his trouble.
But there are a number of other possibles, without a penalty and with form on a bit of give. Mrs Jordan ran a nice debut when fourth in a mares' bumper at Warwick. The second has won since, and the winner placed twice in Listed events. She gets a seven pounds mares' allowance which, combined with Chalk It Down's penalty means she's a stone better off than that one. That could be the difference.
Lots of dark'uns in a race to watch rather than wager, and the money for Seamus Rua and Max Ward suggests they're expected to show something tonight.
A - 1 (Chalk It Down), 11 (Mrs Jordan)
B - 4 (Max Ward), 5 (Our Boy Ben)
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