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The first of today’s live ITV races sees the eagerly awaited re-appearance of Barters Hill, who returns following a 15 month absence from injury. If fully fit and raring to go following such a lay-off he should have too much class for these and it would be great to see him return to the winners enclosure, but with three places on offer i’m opting for The Eaglehaslanded who has won a couple of times on return from a lay-off, is effective over the trip and in expected conditions and has been dropped 4lbs by the handicapper.

Others to consider include Bastien who has won three from six over hurdles and will be a danger if staying this longer trip, while both trainer and jockey continue in great form so Lough Derg Farmer also warrants respect.



Midnight Jazz is a previous course winner and was only a half length behind Poppy Kay at Listed level last time out so it would be a surprise if he wasn’t in the mix here, while Midnight Tour is better than when last seen and should be capable of a big run returning to a trip that she has won over previously.

That said, i’m taking a tentative poke at Woolstone One who won with what looked to be a bit in hand at Doncaster last month and was finishing very strongly so should benefit from the extra furlong she encounters here.



A disappointing turn out but all three runners can be considered in with chances. Native River is a class act and will likely go off at a pretty short price but is unbeaten in two over course and distance, won this race last year and has been given plenty of time to get over an excellent third in last years’ Gold Cup. He won his three previous races over fences and should get back to winning ways here.

Paul Nicholls has won this race four times in the last ten years and sends Saphir Du Rheu in a bid to notch up another victory. He has his first run since last April but has won and placed on a couple of occasions when returning from a break so should give a good account of himself if fully wound up.

Cloudy Dream is extremely consistent, never finishing outside the first three and winning five from fourteen when tackling either a hurdle or a fence. He has had to settle for runner-up spot in each of his three races this season and although looks to be the biggest danger to the favourite he is likely to have to settle for minor honours again.



Saint Calvados takes a step up in class but could be a star in the making. A winner of two from two over todays’ race distance since joining Harry Whittington, he beat a couple of subsequent winners first time out and was a commanding winner last time out so is an exciting prospect and could prove tough to beat here.

North Hill Harvey won his first two over fences and has an excellent record over the trip but the recent stable form has to be a concern so the bigger danger looks to be Drumcliff who is unbeaten in two over fences and will be at home in the conditions.



Nicky Henderson and Paul Nicholls both have good records in this race and without meaning any disrespect to Valdez this looks to be a match up between the two here. Altior won the race last year and has the perfect record of eleven wins from eleven over jumps, however hasn’t been seen since last April and will likely be using this race as a springboard for Cheltenham in March. He has won on seasonal return before but I think if he is going to be beaten it could be today.

Politologue has won his last three and has won six from nine over fences. A top class chaser in his own right, he is taken to give Altior his first loss.



Kylemore Lough won five in a row in the 2015-2016 season, culminating in a Grade 1 success in the Ryanair Gold Cup at Fairyhouse. Subsequently tried over a couple of different trips he hasn’t got his nose in front since but won on his only previous run at the course and returns to a trip that has seen him win over four times from nine so should have the class to return to winning ways now back in handicap company.

Value At Risk won over hurdles last time out but was very disappointing on his last two runs over the larger obstacles and it remains to be seen if he can prove as effective now returning to fences, while Templehills has a course and distance victory to his name and looks the most likely challenger from Nigel Twiston-Davies’ yard as Cogry hasn’t won over a trip this short since 2014.



Irish Roe very nearly reeled in Maria’s Benefit last time out and boasts four victories and two seconds from her last six runs. She has built up an excellent understanding with jockey Henry Brooke and has three wins and a placed effort from five over the trip so it would be a surprise if she’s not fighting it out at the finish.

Jenkins has found a new lease of life in recent weeks, winning twice in January to take his tally to four from eight over hurdles. Having won twice over course and distance already it would be foolish to dismiss him here considering recent form.

Ben Pauling has started to find some form in recent days and sends High Bridge who is unbeaten in three over track and trip in an effort to continue his recent winning streak. Looking back over recent winners, it would be a tough ask to win this carrying 11stone 12lbs but is respected given his course form and recent stable form.

Kalashnikov won well in his first two runs of the season and was a solid second in the Grade 1 Tolworth when last seen, while Knocknanuss and Poppy Kay both arrive on the back of victories last time out and are others to consider in an extremely competitive finale to the live races.


written by Dean Kilbryde



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