Black Op was an excellent second to Samcro in the Ballymore at Cheltenham. Prior to that he was less than a length behind yesterdays’ Sefton Novice Hurdle winner Santini and a run to either of those levels would probably be good enough to win most renewals of this race. That said, his stable arrives here struggling for winners whereas Nicky Henderson has his string in fine order and runs On The Blind Side who has been more impressive with each run, is unbeaten in three over hurdles and has also won a point-to-point in soft ground. He comfortably beat Momella in a Grade 2 at Cheltenham in November, a race that has produced four subsequent winners, and could prove tough to beat if fully wound up following a four-month break.
On The Blind Side (WIN)
Petit Mouchoir is the highest rated horse in the race and although could only manage third in the Arkle he really should be winning this, yet at the prices it may be worth looking for the likely runner-up as an each-way option.
Lady Buttons has twice won in soft ground over hurdles, with both races producing subsequent winners. She deserves a chance at this level and looks the most likely to capitalise on an underwhelming performance from the favourite.
Lady Buttons (E/W)
Tom Lacey continues to have his stable firing in the winners and his runner Thomas Patrick put in an eye-catching performance when winning by eight lengths at Newbury last time out, taking his record over fences to two wins from three. The testing conditions are in his favour and despite the competitive nature of this race he could prove too strong for his rivals here.
Rocklander arrives here in decent form having won two from four over the larger obstacles and was an excellent third in the Close Brothers Handicap Chase at Cheltenham last month. Providing this doesn’t come too soon after what was a tough race he should be in the mix.
Others to consider include On Tour who has an excellent record at the course and at a bigger price Bells Of Ailsworth who was a very impressive winner at Bangor on penultimate run and should benefit from the drop back in trip.
Thomas Patrick (WIN) – NAP
The Worlds End won at this meeting last year but has proved frustrating this season and hasn’t shown enough to suggest he can reverse the form with either Wholestone or Sam Spinner based on their respective runs in the Stayers Hurdle.
Wholesone stayed on for third in that race but never troubled the top two and although will no doubt run his usual solid race he has only won one from six this season and will probably find one too good once again.
Sam Spinner was a shade disappointing when only fifth in the Stayers Hurdle but had been progressive prior to that, beating L’Ami Serge in December and winning a Grade 3 race by seventeen lengths in heavy ground in November. His price is a little short considering his last run but he should be capable of bouncing back and is taken to come out on top today.
Sam Spinner (WIN)
written by Dean Kilbryde