No great insights unfortunately and the three handicap chases are very ordinary to say the least, but a couple of them are worth having a closer look at.
John Williams is undoubtedly the nicest horse in this 2m contest but it's going to be a real test of speed and he required every yard of the trip on heavy ground at Hexham last time. This ground is more to his liking and they'll probably try to have him up there all the way, but at less than 2/1 he doesn't appeal.
Cooper's Friend has stopped to nothing on his last couple of outings suggesting he has some sort of problem, be it physical or mental. It could be that he no longer stays 2m4f+, hence this drop to the minimum. However, this is in fact the shortest trip he has faced under rules and his victory at Sedgefield came over 2m3f. I think he checks out at the business end at any trip.
Muwalla is getting some respite from the handicapper but hasn't shown much at all on his last three outings. Ground and trip suit and he could bounce back and go well, but even so he doesn't find much off the bridle when in the best of form, so he's not a bet from a win perspective.
My Idea is another that finds nothing when let down, he's had injuries and isn't the force of old, winning only a very weak race in the summer.
The pace angle is interesting as Stormbay Bomber loves to front run and simply must have good ground or quicker. I think he'll love it round here and if he's on form, which to be fair is probably a worse than 50/50 bet, then he could take some pegging back. I made him no more than a 12/1 chance so it's worth paying to find out if he's on a going day.
Duhallowcountry is unlikely to be ready first time but does go freely and is likely to ensure they go a real good clip, which of course means he could be a spoiler for backers of Stormbay Bomber.
Endeavour has been a grand servant and still pops up now and then, but his chase mark does look high and he's not certainty to perform to that level.
The other runner is Chestnut Ben, who has dropped to a good mark and he is certainly a player, although 2m on fast ground is sharp enough for him and they'll need to fall in a heap for him to collect. That is entirely plausible of course, and 12/1 was a crazy price. 8/1 still represents value, so I'll take he and Stormbay Bomber to small stakes.
Just five go in the finale over just shy of 3m and this is the sharpest staying trip in the UK. It looks right up the street of Bright Prospect, who loves good ground and jumps really well on the whole. He looks well handicapped and is the most likely winner, however I couldn't make him any shorter than 7/4 so I'm not surprised he's drifted all day. If he continues to drift to anything silly like 9/4 on the show, he's worth a bet.
As it stands though, there's value around as No Such Number still looks high in the weights after last season's winning spree, and while he's every chance of staying this 3m, his stamina will be ebbing away late on and he didn't appeal at the odds.
Blue Kascade is back in his grade but he is a giant of a horse that likes big tracks, and I'm not sure this tight circuit suits even though he won round here last term. The money for him isn't surprising, with his yard going well, but his overall profile doesn't encourage me to back him at 7/2 or less.
Swantykay has shown practically nothing for his new yard, so I don't know where to start with the market move for him, which leaves Chicago Outfit.
The veteran was revitalised by G Bewley and he made Hexham his own for a while, until age and the handicapper caught up.
However, he won a point in the spring for his permit holder, who had a first-time-out winner under rules the other day through Havana Blue. With C Nichol in the plate, the inference is that he's fit to go first time and now that the assessor has taken an axe to his rating, like Stormbay Bomber at big odds I'll pay to find out if he's still got what it takes.