1:08 Pertemps Network Handicap Hurdle 3m 149y
Supreme Escape, a son of Milan out of a Presenting mare, is bred to be useful, and the fact he has done much of his racing on heavy ground gives him a patchy record. On deep ground, he has form figures of 44P7P, but on soft or better his record is 3111P, culminating in a win over three and three-quarter miles at Chepstow in March achieved in a smart time for the conditions.
He would have won by further that day but for being hampered early in the straight, while his jumping over fences didn’t convince. That was again the case in the Bet365 Gold Cup on his final start, while he also looked uncomfortable on the right-handed track, and appeals as the type to do much better going this way around on decent ground.
Supreme Escape will benefit from a stiffer test of stamina, but he could easily be a lot better than his current mark, so he appeals even from out of the weights.
2:15 Betway Grand Sefton Handicap Chase 2m 5f 19y
Jamie Snowden is doubly represented here, and the in-form Lambourn handler should take home a fair share of the prize money on offer. Hogan’s Height has had his injury woes since winning this corresponding event in 2019, and badly needed a couple of runs before running in the Grand National in April, where he was effectively schooled round at the rear of the field before staying on into 12th at the line. He has had a pipe-opener over hurdles for this, and should finally be back to his best.
Hogan’s Height has jumped around this course with no problems in two starts over the famous fences, and that is a big positive. With that said, Senior Citizen and Sir Jack Yeats also need consideration, that pair finishing third and fifth in the Topham over course and distance in April, while the latter is having his fourth run in this event, having completed the course on all four visits.
1:25 Virgin Bet Handicap 7f 6y
When the field races on the stands side over this trip at Town Moor, the low numbers (up the centre) have a distinct edge, but having tipped one drawn low at the last meeting, I noticed that all the jockeys wanted to avoid the stands side, thereby turning the draw advantage on its head. I’m not sure there is much option in a field of this size, however, but to ride to your draw, and I’m confident that Tomfre can again reward each-way support.
Ralph Beckett’s charge returned from a three-month break at Newbury in September looking big and well, and has built on his effort there in both subsequent starts, finishing second to the thriving Able Kane, and that took his lifetime record in seven-furlong handicaps on ground softer than good to 1111252.
Stall five looks a significant plus if my working out is correct, and he will get a good tow into things from Marshall Dan from the widest stall. He’s got the early toe to hold a good position if the high-drawn runners try to move across, so should be better placed than most in any eventuality, so must go close.
2:05 Virgin Bet Wentworth Stakes (Listed) 6f 2y
The Wentworth Stakes can go to the admirable Dakota Gold, who has had an underwhelming season, but has a tremendous record when presented with six furlongs at a galloping track on easy ground. He won this race in similar conditions last year, but has been racing at five furlongs since this season’s return. He hinted at a full-scale revival when third of 14 in a competitive handicap here last month, keeping on well but outsprinted late by the pair who beat him, and the return to six furlongs can see him get back to winning ways.
2:40 Virgin Bet November Handicap 1m 3f 197y
The draw should play a part in Doncaster’s big handicap, with those drawn low disadvantaged according to fairly robust statistics. There are plenty among the high numbers to choose from, but top of my shortlist is John Butler’s Farhan, who was an excellent two-and-a-quarter-length second of 15 to Siskany in the Old Rowley Cup at Newmarket on his latest start, and whose consistency is both hard to knock, and a sure sign he’s not yet reached his ceiling. He is up 4lb for that career-best effort, and should give a bold sight under Hollie Doyle.
I’m also willing to take another chance on the classy Wells Farhh Go, who has been racing in better class, and could get back on track dropped into handicap company for the first time since fancied to take the 2019 Ebor. Rated 115 back then, the handicapper has given him a chance by dropping him over a stone, and while he’s not been at his best this year after a lengthy absence, he showed enough when third in a listed race at Chester in September to give hope that he could collect off his reduced mark.
1:50 John Romans Park Homes ‘Rising Stars’ Novices’ Chase (Grade 2) 2m 4f 35y
Mick Pastor was not a horse I warmed to over hurdles, and I must admit to having reservations about this step up in trip, but he has achieved more over fences than stablemate and hot-favourite Bravemansgame, and he can provide a minor surprise in a race which he can dominate if allowed to lead.
Of course, connections may prefer to let the favourite stride on, but the selection is already an accomplished jumper, and although not beating any superstars to date over the larger obstacles, he’s impressed very much on the clock, and that is a better guide than hurdles form in my experience.
3:00 60th Badger Beer Handicap Chase (Listed) 3m 1f 30y
A very open-looking running of the Badger Beer, and not easy to find a standout. Hurricane Harvey was shortlisted having shaped well despite the inadequate trip on his return at Chepstow, and he will appreciate stepping back up to three miles and a furlong. Given he won a Grade 2 novice chase over this trip last term, a mark of 136 is potentially lenient, and he can be forgiven a flop in the Reynoldstown at Ascot when he was never at the races.
The other one to consider is Coup De Pinceau, who has also been given a chance by the handicapper. A winner going right-handed over this trip off 130 for Paul Nicholls and 131 for Nick Mitchell, he now finds himself back on 130 after finishing a creditable third here on his debut for Jack (Ralph) Smith. These are his ideal conditions, and he is unlikely to be far away.
3:35 Unibet Elite Hurdle (Grade 2) 1m 7f 50y
The 2020 Elite hero Sceau Royal has been a star for Alan King, and with the ground likely to be no worse than dead, he’s readily preferred to Goshen, who bolted up on heavy ground here in the Kingwell. Goshen remains something of an enigma, whereas you can set your watch by the dependable Sceau Royal, and while he’s never spectacular, he’s much more likely to give his running.
Supreme Escape 1:08 Aintree – 1pt win @ 14/1 (Bet365, Hills, BetVictor)
Hogan’s Height 2:15 Aintree – 1pt e/w @ 8/1 (BetVictor, Boyles, Betway)
Farhan 2:40 Doncaster – 1pt e/w @ 10/1 (Bet365, Powers 9/1 others)
Wells Farhh Go Doncaster – 0.5pts e/w @ 40/1 (Bet365)
Coup De Pinceau 3:00 Wincanton – 1pt e/w @ 18/1 (general)