Cultivator ought to appreciate this huge drop in class having been elevated into quite smart company at Newbury last time. He looked a progressive sort prior to that run and now that he has had a couple of months off to recover from it, Nicky Henderson may well have found him an ideal opportunity. This is his first run over hurdles and with his concentration likely to be sharpened by them, he looks sure to improve further.
Gary Moore looks to have a strong say in this race as he sends both Master Of Speed and Knightly Pleasure into the battlefield. The former was beaten only a couple of lengths at Fontwell last month and he looks destined to come in for that outing. The latter looks as though he needs soft or heavy ground as he won on it last month and that looks far from certain this afternoon. Breath Of Blighty was a good second to Buveur D’Air at Huntingdon during the winter. If he reproduces anywhere near that level of form, he too warrants serious consideration.
Cultivator is only having his fourth career start and Nico De Boinville now takes the ride for the second time. Nicky Henderson has an favourable twenty six percent strike rate at this track and there should be a lot more to come from this five year old.
Whispering Soul made a pleasing seasonal reappearance when only beaten a couple of lengths at Musselburgh. She is fully entitled to come on for that run and with a fitness edge over many of these, she has to be considered. Ann Duffield may well have turned a corner with her runners as Cuppacoffee won at Ripon only yesterday and with PJ McDonald yet again in the saddle the combination could well have the answers in an open race.
Show Palace looks the obvious danger to the selection. Despite not having raced since October, a previous course and distance win will stand him in good stead. Graham Lee has won on the three year old twice before and if any rain should arrive his chances would improve with each drop that falls. Kiringa has raced exclusively on all weather tracks to date but she receives weight from her male counterparts here and if handling the turf effectively, she could well make her presence felt.
Whispering Soul ought to make full use of his position close to the rail and that may well prove a deciding factor in the outcome of this race. With the cobwebs well and truly blown away, he can go close in this cavalry charge.
WHISPERING SOUL (E/W if 9/2+)
Somerset Lias is a longstanding maiden but he has definite ability and is bound to land one of these races one day. Beaten a little over a length last time he now takes a drop down in distance in order to try and get his head in front. Liam Heard knows the eight year old inside out and with the better ground expected to work in their favour, they have to rate high on any shortlist this afternoon.
Gowanauthat stays a lot further than this but won over a similar trip at Fakenham last time. He is finally beginning to fulfil his potential and in a race filled with regressive types, he looks a massive danger. Harry Bannister keeps the ride on the Charlie Mann trained runner and they command utmost respect. Present Accepted was making his first appearance in almost three years when finishing fourth to Ballycoe at Bangor last time. The nine year old gets weight from all of his rivals today and he could be interesting at the foot of the handicap. Another watching brief is advised for him though as the dreaded bounce factor could come into play.
Somerset Lias has been a model of consistency this season and Bob Buckler’s patience deserves to be rewarded. If this drop in trip works the oracle for the eight year old he ought to prove difficult to pass.
SOMERSET LIAS (E/W if 9/2+)