A maximum field of 22 go to post, all looking to land this attractive £37,000 first prize and we’ve managed to whittle the field down to six outstanding candidates.
Last year’s winner seems to be coming back to form at just the right time, the six-year-old gelding having run a good sixth behind the fast-improving Dakota Gold at York.
While he is now 4lbs lower in the handicap since last year’s win and William Buick is once again on board, it’s probably fair enough to say Charlie Hills’ stalwart is just not quite as good as he was and so despite his latest run he may just find one or two too good this time.
David O’Meara’s four-year-old is in rare form just now, the son of Invincible Spirit having run outside of the first three in just 2 of his five outings this term.
It’s possibly wise to declare this one more of a solidly consistent type than a rapid improver, which tempers enthusiasm just a little bit, so the fact that he’s gradually been raised 9lbs this season since winning at Ayr but without scoring since means this task looks tough.
Another son of Invincible Spirit and very much the money horse this week, Bielsa is a four-year-old of Kevin Ryan’s who is unbeaten in three career starts and one who undoubtedly has plenty more to offer yet.
While his debut at 3 wasn’t special it was a winning one and since being gelded he has gone up to a new level. A nice win here at Doncaster in a novice event was followed up with a successful handicap debut performance at Thirsk, a win that may have been underestimated if anything and so his mark of 93 may not really represent where he is at right now.
Kevin Stott’s mount just held on last time, but he is moving up the ladder quickly and will appreciate the half-furlong drop here on a flat track and simply has to go well.
Beaten twice by Dakota Gold since transferring to Jedd O’Keefe, there’s no doubt this one has the talent to go close with the only question being whether or not his handicap mark is low enough for him to do the business.
His form behind Michael Dods’ star means he has now risen to a rating of 102, not his highest but still 2lbs more than his last winning mark from 2018, so we cannot call him well handicapped necessarily although in what is bound to be a fast-run race he can record his best performance of the season which sees him in with a shout.
An old favourite; Muthmir has now appeared 40 times, winning eight including this event back in 2014. It goes without saying that at nine years of age he is not the force he once was, in fact at his height he was rated 116 but off just 100 he has been given a chance and he shouldn’t be too far away.
Conditions will be ideal for him; fast ground and a strong pace, and if he were to run as well as he did on his season reappearance at Epsom earlier in the year then he’d take this off his current mark.
Second behind today’s rival Dazzling Dan at Newmarket recently, this six-race three-year-old is going the right way but given that his good form is over the six at tracks that take some getting, he may find things a little quick in this event.
Indeed, Oxted was well down the field on his only appearance at Doncaster in a conditions race in August so while he makes the shortlist based on potential, he might just need different racing conditions in order to show his best.
Last year’s winner A Momentofmadness is reaching his peak and so has to be considered carefully, though with the amount of miles he has on the clock the consideration has to be whether his current peak is indeed good enough and that remains to be seen.
Oxted is going the right way and, strictly on ratings, would even be a pretty justifiable favourite but this race will have a very different shape to the ones he’s made his name in and that rankles rather when it comes to backing him to win.
The best of the bunch would appear to be BIELSA. He’s unbeaten, will love this particularly fast race and of course we have not reached the bottom of him yet and so we are almost guaranteed to see further improvement.