It’s not often you see three-year-olds in handicap hurdles, but they do get such a big weight allowance that they must be seriously considered against older rivals.
FRATERCULUS is the highest-rated horse in the race. However, with his weight-for-age allowance, he gets weight off most of the field.
He has been runner-up on his previous two starts to a horse who is now rated 120, so he looks very, very well-in. If he handles the hustle and bustle of a big-field handicap, he must go close.
Espinator should also run well going up in trip for the first time. He’s shown enough in four starts to be able to win a handicap this season.
LE REVEUR has been in good form since joining Mike Murphy this winter, with his form figures for his new connections reading 5-2-2.
He seems to stay well and ran nicely over course and distance 10 days ago. He has been put up 4lb for that run, but gets into this 0-70 under the new ruling, so should give a good account of himself with the conditions to suit. Luke Morris takes the ride.
This 2m 4f Handicap Chase is a very competitive renewal that includes two-time winner of the race, Oldgrangewood .
He does, however, appear to be a little too high in the handicap and needs to drop a few pounds before he can be competitive in a race of this nature again.
CEPAGE won a hotter race than this at Cheltenham at the beginning of the year and he’s off a mark just 1lb higher here. If he’s fit enough on his first start of the season, he could go well for an in-form Venetia Williams.
Count Meribel has always promised to win a nice handicap but he unseated his rider early on in a similar race at Ascot last weekend. If he’s none the worse for that excursion, I expect him to go well, too.
Despite winning over fences by 46 lengths last week, HILL SIXTEEN looks set to exploit his hurdles mark, which is way below his chase mark.
He bolted up at Ffos Las last weekend and appears in great form, so he has to be very hard to beat for the in-form Nigel Twiston-Davies.
Ballon Onabudget didn’t jump with any fluency at Cheltenham last time, but he did run well in the circumstances. If he gets his jumping together, he could run a big race under Jonathan Burke.
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