The ground is likely to be as much good to soft as soft at Warwick for today’s card given the forecast for Friday is for another dry sunny afternoon. Let’s hope all the obstacles are jumped although that is a rare occurrence when the sun comes out in Britain.
The valuable 2m 4f handicap chase is a hot race and eight of the nine hold realistic claims. Springtown Lake (3.53) won this contest 12 months ago from a 5lbs lower mark and is blinkered for the first time by Philip Hobbs. The 9-y-old failed to get home over 3m at Wetherby on his last start and errors have blighted his progress in recent starts.
There is plenty of pace in the race which should suit the selection and I hope to see Tom O’Brien sit just off the pace. The Unit will have the race run to suit and he needs to win to stand any chance of getting into the Plate at the Cheltenham Festival next month where a number of these hold entries.
At Exeter, I am looking forward to seeing how L’Air Du Vent goes for Colin Tizzard coming back to the scene of his C&D success here back in November. The 7-y-old has not seen the track since going out like a light at Cheltenham 77 days ago but he does hold a G1 entry at Cheltenham in the former RSA Chase. He must give 9lbs, however, to Hold That Taught (1.30) and that might be beyond him.
The selection – 5/2 with William Hill – remains a maiden after three runs over fences, but he has run well in defeat in each of those starts and has little to fear from top-weight Highland Hunter – who did us a favour at Carlisle last week – on his latest Chepstow run.
The form of Storm Force Ben’s (2.00) second over C&D last month has been franked in no uncertain terms by the subsequent efforts of the winner Sandymount Rose who is rated a stone higher in the weights and finished runner up in a Sandown G2 Hurdle last week. The selection – 10/3 with William Hill – had the third 11L away when beaten a length by the progressive winner last time and a 3lbs rise looks fair.
Wouldyoubewell has the steadier of 11st 12lbs but looks sure to appreciate the step back up in trip and the form of her latest fourth at Wincanton was given a boost when the second – Fable – scored at Huntingdon in the same colours as the top-weight.
The Devon National is an ultra-competitive 15-runner handicap and my two against the field are Samuel Jackson and Special Acceptance (3.10) with marginal preference for the latter who has improved for the application of cheekpieces this term and threatens to be well served by a thorough test of stamina. The form of his recent seconds has been let down by the subsequent runs of the winners – Season Spirit and The Late Legend – but both went into the race in the form of their lives and this extended 3m 6f should suit Paul Webber’s eight-year-old.
Samuel Jackson – 7s with William Hill 4 places – got going too late when second over 3m here last time and has been left on the same mark which certainly helps. I remember him picking up Rolling Dylan over 3m 4f at Taunton from a 9lbs higher mark last season. I have backed the pair each way.
Fontaine Collonges (3.45) was taken out of a race at Wetherby earlier in the week to wait for this better race, but I had my slight concerns about that 2m 5f+ trip. Today’s extended 2m 2f looks ideal at this stage of her career and she looked potentially smart when rallying to get back up at Leicester over 2m last time.
This is a much better race than Monday’s and Panic Attack looks a big danger despite a poor run at Newbury last time when she was never travelling. A listed Bumper winner for Willie Mullins she is still potentially well treated despite being raised 11lbs for her win, also at the Berkshire track, on her penultimate start.