4¼ miles, heavy ground, strong winds, a long home straight and one of the toughest tracks on which to see a race out all equal a very tough task indeed for these twelve runners in this encapsulated £80,000 race. Here’s our shortlist:
Nigel Hawke is bringing this seven-year-old an awful long way to have a crack at this race and the gamble may yet pay off for the team.
Having stayed on very strongly at Chepstow to win over three miles last time there’s every hope that he can handle these conditions OK, the only worry being that his 7lb hike for beating horses not of the standard he’ll face today could be enough just to peg him back this time.
In terms of basic form versus handicap rating there is every reason to believe we’ll see a big run from Olly Murphy’s challenger, one who took a big step forward last time out and on heavy ground too.
The doubts come in when you realise in running second last time he was doing so on the flat surface at Haydock and to be fair he was beaten fully 13 lengths, so we can’t say with great confidence that he is in any way ahead of the handicapper unless he can unlock more progress in these rather extreme conditions.
We missed out last week with a Sandy Thomson-trained stayer, but we’re more than willing to have another go with this one.
As a nine-year-old gelding he has a little more experience than some of the others which is no bad thing in these conditions, yet with just seven chases under his belt it can be assumed that there’s more to come from him especially given that his recent improvement in form came after a wind operation.
That upturn saw him take a 3m3f chase at Ayr in heavy ground, great prep for this if he is fully recovered, while this time last year he also ran very well on just his third run as a novice chase over three miles around Newcastle.
He is the one therefore with the least doubts about race conditions here and it could just be that his rating of 121 doesn’t really do him justice so we reckon he’ll have plenty in the tank as the field makes that final turn.
On the plus side; this horse is improving fairly rapidly, has won at Newcastle (last time out), stays three miles well for an inexperienced horse which bodes well for the future and could be ahead of the handicapper overall.
The down sides are that his inexperience is not a good thing today, four miles on just a horse’s fifth chase start is quite an ask and on the one occasion he ran on genuinely heavy ground he was soundly beaten, so despite his place chance caution is advised.
Nicky Richards is a trainer who should know what it takes to win around Newcastle and his Glittering Love is definitely a proper long-distance stayer in the making.
He won easily around Ayr last March with a performance that made him look like the archetypal improver, while this season having fallen first time up, he needed the run when finishing third at Newcastle over three miles.
This extra mile and a bit will certainly help and he can be relied upon to put in a big performance we feel, the only thing to try to second-guess is whether we feel he’d be better treated at the weights than Donna’s Delight.
The topweight is the solid one in the line-up for sure but that’s the very problem here; he’s topweight.
His odds-on defeat at Exeter last time doesn’t bother us one bit as conditions there are nothing like what he’ll face today, so his form in big staying races around Chepstow including the Welsh National are his key pieces of form, the only negative being that the handicapper seems to have gripped onto him tightly now.
It’ll be fascinating to see whether the intermittent gusts that have been hanging around Newcastle for a fortnight now materialise during the time it takes to run this race, as that will add yet another obstacle to what is already a huge physical task for these runners.
Glittering Love could be one that makes a mockery of his rating, but more solid for us is DONNA’S DELIGHT and it’s Ryan Mania’s mount who gets the nod.