It has been a strange season for the Paul Nicholls team so far this season, but the yard look to have a good chance of landing the spoils here with the consistent The Eaglehaslanded.
The six-year-old recorded two quick fire wins in novice company including one over course and distance before making the frame in both handicaps in his last two runs. The run last time out at Cheltenham was a great effort and he can run off the same mark here today so another bold bid can be expected. The horse is untested on the forecast heavy ground, but the way he has shaped in his last two runs would suggest that a test of stamina will be right up his street so he looks the clear value pick at a decent each way price.
Unowhatimeanharry has gone three from three for Harry Fry this season and definitely warrants the respect as a progressive sort. Today’s race is a much tougher test as he faces a high quality field and so he would need to progress again to feature. The horse dispatched of the re-opposing Scoop the Pot by some five lengths back in November, but now has to contend with an 11lb pull in the weights and may struggle to confirm the form. The Phillip Hobbs runner hasn’t been since that defeat to Harry Fry’s horse and is expected to have come on for that seasonal reappearance so is probably the biggest danger to the selection.
The Eaglehaslanded (E/W)
The Alan King stable is in terrific form at the minute and they can enhance their current record with a victory in this with their veteran Midnight Prayer. The presence of Champion jockey-elect Richard Johnson in the saddle may be a tip in itself for the horse that won the 4miler at the Cheltenham festival. While today’s trip may be considerably shorter, the ground should provide a big enough test for him to feature here. The horse looked back to his best when a staying on fourth last time out at Warwick despite meeting trouble in running and he pulled some way clear of the rest so the 4lb rise for that effort shouldn’t stop him from being a top contender here.
Golden Chieftain is the clear danger to the selection after turning back the years to win two of his last four starts recently including an impressive win over 3m2f at Wincanton last time. Today’s task is much tougher and especially off this higher mark, but he should still give the selection the most to think about.
Another who could feature is Henry Oliver’s Restless Harry. The horse had a decent third at Bangor back in November over a similar trip on his yard debut and the form of that would put him bang in the mix, but some heavy defeats the last twice over further distances would be a big concern and he has something to prove at the minute.
Midnight Prayer (WIN)
Willie Mullins comes triple handed for this 3m chase, but it is the all conquering Black Hercules who is the clear form pick and should take all the beating here.
The Graham Wylie owned seven-year-old has looked a star since switching to fences and he can continue his upward curve here on his final stop before the Cheltenham Festival. He smashed a stablemate at today’s track two runs back over 2m4f before winning a listed contest in some style at Warwick last time out. This is his biggest test to date, but expect him to be bang there and put himself right into the mix for the March showcase.
Noel Meade’s Monksland looks the main danger to the selection who already has some decent Grade 1 form in the book albeit over shorter trips. The 9-year-old did have a difficult race only seven days ago, however and may find the step back up in trip difficult once again.
Gordon Elliot’s Noble Endeavour is another to consider if coming on for a workmanlike victory at Gowran Park back in November, but he has work on to reverse the form with Monksland so Black Hercules remains the confident selection.
Black Hercules (WIN)