Most eyes today will be on the superb Cheltenham card and as the only other NH card is a rather uninspiring one at Hexham we will concentrate our attention on this lingfield card instead. Luca Cumani popped up with a winner on the artificial surfaces last week and sends out the well bred Al Khafji in this. Only moderate in three starts so far he was rather disappointing when a beaten favourite at Newbury the last day, he was however 3rd of 10 and this drop in trip looks sure to suit. Another interesting angle to the Cumani runner is that his sire has a decent 18% strike rate on this surface over the last three years and from stall 1, that record could well be improved again today. Bochart is exposed and expensive to follow, despite this it wouldn’t be a surprise if he played a part and Godolphin have dominated the AW scene in recent times. Swilly Sunset comes here having won last time and must be respected, the second has since gone in to bolster the form and though this looks tougher he is still the main danger.
Al Khafji (WIN)
Dougan had hinted at having ability when a fair 4th on debut at Windsor and built upon that effort when winning over 7f at Kempton last time. Sent off a fairly strong favourite that day he was made to tough it out but had shown plenty of pace and knuckled down well when it mattered. Connections decision to drop him to 6f here looks a wise move and with so many unreliable sorts in opposition it would be very disappointing if he failed to follow up. Pettochide and Brazen Spirit are capable of running big races if on song but both lack the scope of the favourite and as odds against can be had, there seems little point in searching for value when it appears to Dougan represents enough.
Athenian Garden caused a minor shock when winning at odds of 16/1 two starts back over course and distance and would surely have gone very close to doubling up had Danielle Mooney removed the hood before the stalls opened back here the last day. Now up 4lbs a repeat of that shocking blunder must be avoided but as a few of these like to force the pace his hold up style is likely to be suited and at the odds he represents good EW value. Salient is an old warrior and would have every chance if in the mood, with stall six to work from he ought to challenge and he too looks a player at rewarding odds. Daring Indian has gone 3 years without winning but was still sent off favourite last time and finished slightly in front of the selection, he is totally untrustworthy at slim odds however and though he warrants respect he was probably lucky to finish in front of Athenian Garden and is worth opposing. Of the rest, maiden Wally’s Wisdom wouldn’t have to improve to play a part and is likely to tempt a few at the odds and Lady Lunchalot has strong claims down in grade.
Athenian Garden (E/W)