So far in his chasing career Coo Star Sivola has looked as useful as he was over hurdles and his last two efforts have been fair despite being in small runner races. Connections decision to bypass the novice handicap earlier on the card in favour of this is another interesting angle and given Nick Williams is 4-10 in the last fortnight a big run is expected. Ballyhill idled in front and looked value for more than the winning distance suggested when accounting for the re-opposing Shantou Flyer over course and distance last time, up 5lbs for that makes this tougher though both are respected with slight preference for the former. Frodon often goes well without winning and has the services of the excellent Bryonny Frost, a decent run looks on the cards but Coo Star Sivola looks to have a decent mark and is taken to make all.
COO STAR SIVOLA (WIN) - NAP
Indian Hawk showed plenty of promise when winning his point and fetched 110,000 guineas at the sales when purchased by Simon Munir and Isaac Souede, sent out for his rules debut at Ludlow he made light work of his opposition and arrives here with a fair reputation. Trained by Nicky Henderson it would be no surprise if he went off a short priced favourite here and given Henderson has taken two of the last three runnings of this a big run is expected. Station Master deserves this step up in class and arrives here as a winner of 4 of his last five starts under rules, like a few he will have to pull out more to win but he is a likable sort. Samuel Jackson is another unexposed type to consider and he proved his 100/1 win was no fluke when following up at Bangor last time, all things considered however Indian Hawk looks the most interesting and is handed the vote.
INDIAN HAWK (WIN)
Bristol De Mai would probably be a good thing if this was run on a flat track, despite that he is by far the best of this bunch on the form book and a massive run has to be expected despite his flop in the King George. American is another arriving here on the back of a flop, well fancied when lining up in the Ladbroke Trophy he never really got into the race and was pulled up. Perhaps being too critical of the latter on the basis of one poor showing is harsh and a look at his novice form gives you every hope he will develop into a top class type in open company. The Last Samurai has something to find with Bristol De Mai on collateral form though if they go hard it is easy to see him charging up the hill and into a place, another tilt at the National is probably his aim though he arrives here in decent form. Definitely Red and Tea For Two have good place chances and ought to run well enough without winning though bearing in mind that Bristol De Mai has a few question marks to answer and that there is three places on offer, American is the suggestion to grab some place money.
Maria’s Benefit has progressed massively this term and arrives here on the back of a demolition job at Taunton, should she win this you would guess she would take her chance in the mares hurdle at the Festival later in the year, she ought to win but her odds offer very little value for the normal punter. Dusky Legend is about as infuriating a horse to follow as one could imagine, a runner up on no less than nine occasions it would take a brave punter to go at her for win purposes though she was booked for at least second when mounting a serious challenge over fences last time and has some decent form over hurdles. Irish Roe has been progressing nicely albeit at a lower level, she could go well at decent odds but a chance will be taken on Dusky Legend eeking us a tiny profit in the each way market.
DUSKY LEGEND (E/W)
Nicky Henderson complicates this by running two in the shape of Santini and Pacific De Baune, both are extremely exciting prospect and either one could win though there is a chance at least one of them wont run, as such we will search for a little each way value. Slate House is a grade2 winner who looked in desperate need of today’s extra yardage when only a fair fourth last time, the form of that looks fairly warm however and he was running on again at the end. Conceding weight to all bar one he will have to settle better than the last day but he looks the value call and is selected to place. Tikkanbar is the other challenger conceding weight though he may well prove up to it, being a four time winner from six starts he certainly has a progressive enough profile and respect is afforded. Mulcahys Hill went down all guns blazing in the Grade1 Challow at Newbury last time and is the one to beat strictly speaking, you do wonder how much a mark that may leave but he remains the one to beat all the same.
SLATE HOUSE (E/W)
L’Ami Serge has been all the rage for this during the week and looks set to go off a strong favourite, well treated judging on his hurdling form you have to think this represents a serious chance and though he is hardly the most straightforward individual the booking of Davey Russell looks a massive positive, all things taken into account it would be disappointing if he failed to fire and as such he is taken to prove too good. Wakanda was only nailed late in the day last time and only went up a pound as a result, should he get an easy lead he would be dangerous but he is exposed to anything with a touch of class. Warriors Tale, Pilgrims Bay and Thumb Stone Blues are other to consider in what looks a tricky renewal.
L'AMI SERGE (WIN)
There wouldn’t be a dry eye to be seen should Beer Goggles land this and before getting into the form of the race everyone here at Picksfromthepaddock would like to pass on our thoughts to the family and friends of Richard Woollacott who tragically passed away earlier in the week having lost his battle with mental illness.
Beer Goggles arrives here on the back of a career beat having won a grade two at Newbury beating the likes of Thistlecrack, Colin’s Sister and Unowwhatimeanharry, a repeat of that may well suffice though you have to question at least a few of the runners from that race and whether they are the same horses as yesteryear, fluke or not I’m sure anyone and everyone would love him to win and he is respected. Finian’s Oscar has tried a few trips this season over fences, you get the feeling reverting to hurdles is something of an acceptance that connections have got his campaign wrong though he has every chance if back to his best. Wholsetone likes it here and won well last time, he looks to have solid claims despite his 6lbs penalty. The Worlds End, Agrapart and Colin’s Sister have chances on their best form but this looks a tricky race as a few have taken turns at beating each other and if Finian’s Oscar is being primed for a tilt at the World Hurdle in March he will need to go close in this surely.
FINIAN'S OSCAR (WIN)
written by Chris Connolly
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