I was struggling to get to grips with the handicap chase at 2.30 which appeals as a betting medium despite an obvious lack of pace. I thought it might be easier if I wrote down some thoughts and here they are...
Field Exhibition; Kept extremely busy over the past year or so but continuing on the up for current handler including when returning from a short break with an apparent PB over course and distance 11 days ago. Pulled her chance away at Worcester in midweek and now that the new mark has kicked in she looks up against it in this tougher contest.
Al Shahir; A frighteningly over-rated horse, surprisingly made favourite for the EBF Final at Sandown 18 months ago and a beaten jolly on three subsequent occasions, and a no-show on two further starts. Prone to mistakes and usually finds little off the bridle, punters need to place a lot of faith in the addition of a hood. Handicapper slow to relent.
As You Like; Consistently progressive over C&D in the past year either side of a lengthy break, not always looking an easy ride. McLernon takes over despite never having won on the horse, but as likely as any to run his race.
Bramble Brook; Consistent but has reverted to being hard to win with again, often capitulating without much resistance. Turnaround in weights with Field Exhibition and As You Like should at least mean he's competitive on paper.
Court Duty: Improved to win twice this summer but also a three-time beaten favourite, including on last outing when trading very low before hitting a wall and coming to grief. Can often over-race and that may have been his downfall last time, and an exaggerated hold-up ride off a fast pace may suit best.
Spring Steel; Returned from a very long absence to win at Uttoxeter over 2m but that looks very weak form and he's 4lb higher as a result.
Cropley; Low mileage over obstacles despite his age, returned from an absence of a year to show he retains plenty of ability despite yard's horses being renowned for needing a run. That form has been let down since, although it was only his fourth run over fences but another PB may be needed.
The only pair that haven't disappointed of late in one way or another are As You Like and Cropley, while Bramble Brook looks sure to run his race. As You Like will need to keep the mistakes to a minimum in this slightly more competitive race but he has his own way of doing things. The main problem in assessing this race is the lack of obvious pace, and with the likes of Field Exhibition, Al Shahir and Court Duty prone to pulling hard, it could get messy. Bramble Brook may get an easy lead if desired but it's hard to see him staying in front regardless. Sean Bowen is an eye-catching booking for Cropley and I like it when he gets the leg up on a horse for the first time. At around 5/1 he makes some appeal to build on his latest effort, likewise course specialist As You Like on whom I intend to have a smaller bet at 4/1 or bigger. Field Exhibition is such a fierce puller that she may be sent on thus setting the race up nicely, however that looks an unlikely scenario given that she benefited so kindly to hold-up tactics to win here earlier this month.