Showers expected in Staffordshire today ahead of Uttoxeter’s seven-race card. The ground was described as soft – heavy in places – on Monday morning so safe to assume conditions will be extremely testing.

In the opening conditional jockey’s event, the handicapper has given Emma Lavelle’s Closing Ceremony (12.15) a real chance given the 11-year-old once won the Grade 2 Rendlesham Hurdle and is 7lbs lower than when scoring at Haydock in January 2019. Yes, he is very much in the veteran stage, but he ran well for a long way on his reappearance in a much better race and the handicapper has dropped him another 7lbs. The ew recommendation is 7/1 with 10bet.   

At the time of writing seven of Charlie Longsdon’s last 11 runners have failed to complete the course – five pulled up – which is the sole reason I am willing to take on likely favourite Saint Dalina who won her penultimate start and finished runner up on her reappearance at Leicester when jockey Tom Buckley lost his irons two out. A 4lbs rise is fair but the stable form is a worry.

The Beginners Chase is the best race on the card and sees the chase debuts of Umbrigado (1.15) and Imperial Alcazar. Preference for the David Pipe trained grey is marginal. The selection – 2s with Boylesports – finished runner up at Haydock on his seasonal reappearance in a valuable handicap hurdle when he may well have won had he not had to swerve to avoid a faller three out. He finished runner up in his sole point-to-point and this intermediate 2m 4f trip looks ideal.

Fergal O’Brien’s Imperial Alacazar failed to get home over three miles on the same valuable Haydock card, but travelled as well as anything and is another exciting recruit to the chasing ranks. Northofthewall has valuable chasing experience, but he looked beaten when coming down two out at Aintree last time although he, too, will be winning his fair share of races over the larger obstacles.

No surprise to see Lord Of Kerak (1.45) step up in distance having looked ready for an additional half-mile when runner up to Adrimel – followed up at Haydock last week – at Sandown last time. The selection – 6/5 with Unibet – needs to brush up on his jumping, but that should come with experience and the Olly Murphy yard have hit a bit of form in recent weeks after a quiet spell.

Mortens Lean was value for much more than the winning margin of three-quarters of a length when doing us a favour at Wetherby back in March and he returned to the track, arguably, better than ever when going down by less than a length at Kempton on his reappearance. He finished runner up over today’s C&D 12months ago from an 11lbs lower mark, but he has improved since then.

He must go close, but I felt Kilbricken Storm (2.08) ran an eye-catching race on his seasonal reappearance at Bangor-on-Dee when racing wide throughout at a time when the Colin Tizzard yard were quiet.

The ew selection – 6s with BetVictor – has been dropped 2lbs for that effort and is a former Albert Bartlett winner at the Cheltenham Festival. Despite making a winning chase debut at Ffos Las two years ago he did not look a natural at the time, but I thought he jumped very well in south Wales and he can give weight and a beating to his seven rivals in a cracking midweek contest.

There is a second excellent Beginners Chase – this time at Punchestown – this afternoon and Eklat De Rire (2.30) is taken to make a winning chase debut for Henry De Bromhead. The selection made all to score over hurdles at Thurles back in March when his jumping was exemplary. The 6-y-old -15/8 with 10bet – won his sole point previously and connections waste no time going over the larger obstacles.        

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