Those chasing the £142,000 first prize here look set to be hit with a proper test; 3m2f around Newbury in soft ground at this stage of the season will try out their limits and we’ve narrowed a competitive field down to six for you with an improving type taken to land the pot.
This will be a proper staying contest and I feel Black Corton is right in the middle when it comes to deciding whether or not he’ll truly appreciate the test. Paul Nicholls’ 7yo has run to a very similar level on the numbers on several occasions now and so it seems we can get a pretty good grip of where he’s at ability-wise.
Because of that and despite a good second in the Charlie Hall Chase on seasonal debut, you can be forgiven for thinking that despite his qualities it would be surprising if one or two weren’t just a little better handicapped for now.
This is an interesting one on the basis that, as a younger chaser, his better efforts have come with plenty of give in the ground and he was a non-runner for his intended engagement at Wetherby a month ago because the ground was good.
We’re back to a more suitable surface now for Alan King’s 6yo gelding, the only negative being that I can’t shake off the fact he hasn’t really run right up to what was expected of him first time out for the season and as such may be better after he’s had this run. One to watch though, you would feel.
Not all horses improve having had wind surgery but in the case of Colin Tizzard’s horse it appeared to have done the trick when he reappeared for the season and rallied having made a mistake to beat Thomas Patrick in a four-runner Listed race at Sandown.
The slower pace offered up that day wouldn’t have played to too many of his strengths and he’ll have learned plenty from that day so I’d expect to see an appreciably better animal this time. He’s racing in this off a mark effectively just 4lbs higher than last time and there is no way that’s enough to stop him on its own.
It’s now three wins and three seconds for Ms Parfois since her chase debut a year ago and her consistency is what people will be backing. That congruous form though also has its downside; her three runner-up efforts showing that there wasn’t too much more to give and therefore we have a pretty fair idea of her best form.
That best form would possibly get her a place in this but unless she has shown significant improvement over the summer it should show her to be 6-7bs below the top ones in this race at the weights.
The Young Master
A popular type of Neil Mulholland’s, The Young Master has been raring to go for a while now after he was set to return for the year as far back as September. He did eventually reappear in October when scoring at Chepstow before doubling up at Cheltenham last month in good style but this opposition is different and the others aren’t ridden by amateurs this time.
He will not be too far away you’d imagine but there are just a couple of names this time around I fancy a little stronger.
As I mentioned earlier this one has close form ties with Elegant Escape having only been beaten a half-length last time and there’s bound to be more to come.
That was easily his best run and he’s bound to come on plenty for it so there will be plenty of support for Tom Lacey and Dicky Johnson, indeed he’s been backed into favouritism at the time of writing.
For me the form line concerning Thomas Patrick and ELEGANT ESCAPE is the one to concentrate on and with that I think the market has gotten things wrong this week. The former is favourite going into Saturday but got the run of the race last time and was still beaten despite Elegant Escape making a mistake.
The latter horse will come on more from that run, was probably at least 4lbs better than his run suggests (carries that much more now) and will appreciate the stronger pace. The Young Master may well be best of the rest.