Rock N Rhythm got off the mark at the seventh time of asking when last seen out at Chepstow at the end of March. He was allowed to dominate from the outset on that occasion under AP McCoy and the pair coasted home by an easy eleven lengths. Rock N Rhythm was only having his second start for Jonjo O’ Neill in that most recent race and there should be further improvement to come from this Rock Of Gibraltar gelding.
General Ginger makes his first appearance in almost six months and has been placed twice before over this trip. Harry Fry has enjoyed a decent season and it will come as no surprise if he can conjure further improvement out of this five year old. The best of his three runs last year came after a similar break so fitness is unlikely to be an issue. Noel Fehily takes over in the saddle and they seem to pose the biggest threat to the selection. Gary Moore sends two into battle here in the shapes of Jupiter Storm and Royal Battalion. The former was the best of the pair on the flat and it could just be that this marked step up in trip and a switch to this sphere could reignite the fast fading embers.
Elkstone has gone backwards from his first run for Alan King and has proved a bitter disappointment since finishing fourth to Avenue Of Honour at Huntingdon back in November. It could well be that he is better suited by a soft surface and that looks unlikely to materialise here. Tom George has endured a miserable run of luck of late and that looks set to be the case today. Rising Breeze has been beaten out of sight on his two runs to date for the trainer and dramatic improvement is required in order for him to get in the mix.
Richard Johnson is an intriguing jockey booking by the team at Jackdaws Castle and they have accumulated a thirty three percent strike rate when they have combined this season. Rock N Rhythm has to give weight away all around this afternoon but he arrives here in peak fitness unlike some of his rivals. He should be capable of a bold show and can go onto better things in due course.
Rock N Rhythm (WIN)
Gallery Exhibition has proven to be a model of consistency this season for Kim Bailey. The eight year old has notched up victories at Ludlow and Catterick on decent ground in recent times and deserved
a rise in class when last seen out at Kelso. He ran as well as could have been expected against the likes of Oscar Rock and he can take advantage of a slight dip in grade here. A return to good ground will also be in his favour and having won over further in the past he should be staying on when others have cried enough.
Champion Court has far less on his plate here than when seen contesting a Grade Three handicap at Cheltenham where he was far from disgraced behind Darna. The form of the race is working out fine given a subsequent wins for Rajdhani Express and Un Ace whilst several others have come out and run well since including Burn And Turn and Hunt Ball. As a consequence he has to carry top-weight but if back to anywhere near his best he will provide the sternest of opposition. Shuil Royale is likely to go off as favourite and he has not looked back since switching to the yard of Harry Fry. Wins at Ludlow and Newbury have seen him rise to a career high mark at the ripe old age of ten and having won at this track in the past he also has to enter calculations.
Sedgemoor Express made his first appearance in six months when last seen out at Stratford and was doing all of his best work in the closing stages. He promises to stay this extra distance but is completely unproven at it. Tom Scudamore keeps the ride on the bottom weight and connections will be hopeful of decent run. Dursey Sound looks to have completely lost his way whilst Wings Of Smoke may not be fully over a nasty fall at Aintree.
Kim Bailey has seen six of his last eight runners all enter the winners’ enclosure and he will be hoping that Nick Schofield can guide his charge in a similar direction.
Gallery Exhibition (E/W)
Master Benjamin is still a maiden after eleven career starts but he went close here on his most recent two visits. His latest run came following a near eighteen month break and he is fully entitled to improve upon it. He was a bit keen in the early stages last time and made significant headway as the race progressed. He was awkward and gangly at the second last but still managed to stay on for second behind the useful Shammick Boy. He clearly goes well fresh so a three month absence should not prove too much of a concern and Nick Schofield has partnered him on seven previous occasions.
Signed Request has been in the form of his life lately and was all out to win at Chepstow last month. A further rise in the handicap and a step up in trip may prove to be his undoing here, although he is two from two when he has teamed up with Jeremiah McGrath. The handicapper may well have gotten to Henry Oliver’s much improved eight year old. Our Chief sneaks in at the foot of the handicap and he too is returning from a layoff. He has shown nothing of significance in five previous starts for David Pipe, but he is likely to have schooled well throughout the winter months. He carries the familiar colours of the Johnson family and he has to be respected off bottom weight.
Of the others, Buck Magic is a talented individual when he has a going day. Better ground should see a more determined effort and he is starting to look like a well handicapped sort. Urcalin won his first race in almost a year last time out. He saw off Karl Marx with the minimum of fuss but this is a much tougher race and he will do well to make the frame.
Jeremy Scott has sent out four winners from his last eight runners and it would come as no surprise if Master Benjamin was to add to that tally this afternoon.
Master Benjamin (WIN)
by Karl Hedley