Thursday 23 July 2020

Uttoxeter July 23

After a quiet week there is a race of interest today, a 0-140 contest over 2m4f. It doesn't look an easy race to weigh up however, and my tissue prices are quite different from the current odds.

3.10 Uttoxeter

Western Miller; Front runner, winner of seven under rules but never from a mark this high.

Monsieur Gibralter; A winning machine between the flags and in hunter chases, but 0/5 in handicaps and winless in six novice chases three summers back. His form in the spring before last appeared to be on another level, winning four hunter chases on decent ground showing a very high cruising speed and swift jumping. The question is whether he can translate that form to this handicap, and even if he can, will it be good enough to defy a mark of 138.

Knockgraffon; Best form at Musselburgh in recent seasons and never going at Market Rasen recently. Will like the ground but plenty to prove here.

De Plotting Shed; Routinely shirked the issue when trained in Ireland but new lease of life for current yard in 2019, and clearly a useful sort when on song. Another that looks a shade high in the weights on balance, but not implausible that he could take a hand if fully tuned up.

Lovato; Useful on the flat in Germany, although regularly turned over at short odds and second seven times, winning once at long odds on. Turned the corner for Dr Newland, winning four times over timber and then won his second chase start here in September from an 8lb lower mark. I rated that as fairly weak form for the grade with those in behind looking poorly handicapped. Flopped either side of that win and has his own way of jumping, which comes with being bred for the Flat.

Mercian Prince; A fine servant to connections being 7/24 over fences before going missing last season in the face of a lofty rating and relentlessly soft ground. Probably didn't achieve a great deal in winning a novice hurdle over a week ago but that would have helped with his confidence, having had a third breathing operation. Undoubtedly the best handicapped horse in the race and a very sound jumper, for all that he may favour going right handed.

River Frost; Gained some consistency last season on soft ground when getting his jumping together but resumes on a tough mark and this ground is lively enough.

Ronava; Veteran looks on a stiff mark after two wins in lesser company last term.

Solar Impulse; An infrequent winner but talented enough and often travels very well, however has never fully seen out this trip. Likely to run his race from a competitive mark which could see him finish fourth or fifth.

Scoop The Pot; Becoming dangerously well handicapped on best form but wants much further and trainer's jumpers have been running round at the back since the resumption.

10/3 Mercian Prince
7/2 Monsieur Gibralter
7 Lovato
9 De Plotting Shed
10 Western Miller
12 Solar Impulse
14 Knockgraffon P
20 Ronava
40 River Frost
50 Scoop The Pot

Conclusion; I came into the race thinking Mercian Prince was the one I wanted to back at odds of around 4/1 but that has so far not materialised. This is the first time he's been on the go so early in the season and that may be due to a preference for a sound surface. Four handicap wins have come from a higher mark than he runs off today so his chance is obvious, the concern being whether he's become a bit shop-worn and the fact he's now had three breathing ops. If he drifts to 4.6 on the machine I may be tempted.

I did think M Gibralter would be put in shorter and at 5/1 it is quite tempting to pay to find out if he can translate that impressive hunter chase form to a more competitive format. The mark is undoubtedly at the top end of his range, but if he's improved again from eight to nine (possible) he can win. Lovato has been well backed but he's not the sort of horse I take to and although you could say he has most scope for improvement having had just three starts over fences, I've taken a dim view of his mark and question his jumping prowess. I could be wrong. Of the others, only De Plotting Shed has the ability to trouble the front two in the market from today's handicap mark, should he be 'fully fit'.

Pace-wise Western Miller could have things his own way in front and if so he might keep on for a place. If backing Mercian Prince you wouldn't want him to get involved in an early joust for the lead and the jockey should be happy to take a lead on this occasion.

Thursday 16 July 2020

Uttoxeter July 16

Today I want to look at the second of three chases on the card, the 1.45, which is a 0-110 over the minimum trip.

Eyesopenwideawake; A winner on chase debut in 2017 when going typically strongly from the off, but has endured two absences of almost a year and showed very little in between breaks. However, he's 10lb below that winning mark and would have more class than the opposition should things click back into place.

Tikkinthebox; Not easy to assess, as his best form came two years ago when racking up three wins over fences. Just 1/12 since that spree, landing a very weak race from a much reduced mark last September. Still well handicapped on old form, but has become very hit and miss, often travelling well only to find very little for pressure.

Fort De l'Ocean; An athletic, nimble youngster who went close a couple of times last term and remains on the same mark. Jumped and travelled well in a fast run race on reappearance, having been an unconsidered 33/1 shot. Still only five but a really sound jumper, appears to go on any ground and the trainer had a winner at Southwell this week.

Bagan; There was a hint of a fluke about his Stratford win last summer and he failed to back it up off a 7lb higher mark. Poor on softer ground but overall suspicion is that he wants a longer trip.

Inca Gold; Son of Galileo and not very big for fences, 0/9 in this sphere but interesting they are persevering. Still, his jumping on course has been very scratchy and he can't be supported yet despite a sliding mark. Clearly though, he is one with the potential to be a market steamer.

Little Stevie; Just 3/43 under rules but plenty of placings and reliable to a point, although lost his way in the winter on softer ground. Mark is just about winnable and Johnson back on board but is vulnerable to potential improvers.

No No Cardinal; Four wins on the bounce last year have left him too high in the weights and he doesn't have the assistance of a claimer either.

Hillview Lad; Success in a belated chase debut last summer but very little since and shouldn't really be good enough.

Dragon Khan; Winner last summer from a basement mark but lost his way since and 6lb wrong in the weights.

3 Fort De L'Ocean
7/2 Little Stevie
5 Tikkinthebox
8 Inca Gold
10 Bagan
12 Eyesopenwideawake
20 Hillview Lad
25 Dragon Khan
33 No No Cardinal
Around 103%

Plenty of pace on here, and presuming Eyesopenwideawake is allowed to bowl along he should lead them out, No No Cardinal and Tikkinthebox can also lie handy and expect Little Stevie to be prominent. This scenario should suit the strong travelling Fort De L'Ocean who is expected to see his race out better with a newly fitted tongue-tie and a solid run under his belt. He has already been backed but is quite a confident choice at 3/1. Little Stevie is a worthy adversary and it's not hard to see him being thereabouts, but I'll be throwing some of the petty cash at Eyesopenwideawake at a big price in case he gets away from them, and in the hope they have found the key to him. Nothing else appeals.

Tuesday 14 July 2020

Southwell July 14

Four more handicap chases to mull over, but having mulled them over, there doesn't seem to be much to get excited about. The highest quality race on the card is a 0-130 over 3m+ and is worth a closer look.

As You Like; 4/13 over fences with four second places, the last victory coming off a mark of 120, that's 9lb lower than today. Thoroughly unexposed over 3m but his style of running (likes to be held up) suggests he should get home here, while a running-on third in a decent race at Newbury on his penultimate start is encouraging on several fronts. Does jump low at times, and will need to avoid serious errors (obvs). A big plus is that he seems to go very well fresh.

Viens Chercher; Hit a rich vein of form last spring before going right off the boil, in common with all from the Bowen yard. Not entirely convincing with attitude at the best of times but is now back on his last winning mark and stays well. Front runner. Passed over for now.

Forth Bridge; Well bred for the Flat but has developed into a fair chaser, albeit only 1/16 over larger obstacles with six second places. Essentially high in the weights and out of sorts last winter after dotting up in a weak C2 event the previous March. Is now below that last winning mark and formerly very consistent on goodish ground over intermediate trips. Seems to just about stay 3m but susceptible to a stronger finisher. Trainer has had a winner and gone close with another since lockdown.

Station Master; In decent form in good ground novice events last spring but essentially badly handicapped thereafter and softer ground no good to him in the winter. Possibly not straight forward, but stays very well and if putting in a clear round (can make mistakes) could go well from career low mark, tongue-tie added to cheekpieces. Trainer had a winner at Bangor on Sunday.

Mr Mafia; Bettered previous form in third of three wins last summer, including twice here, but generally competes at a slightly lower level and mark a bit high starting out this time, beaten miles on resumption here two weeks ago.

New Quay; Got it together first time out two seasons ago from an 8lb lower mark but never really built on that, including in first two chases on soft last term. Not the easiest to weigh up, as this is his first go at 3m which could suit although can run keenly.

Knockrobin; I had him marked down as one to be wary of but he then won a weakish event at Catterick looking pretty straight forward. Reverted to type at Doncaster next time though, pulling himself up when looking all over the winner between the last two fences. Often finished weakly in the past and not certain to see out this 3m trip anyway.

7/2 As You Like
4 Station Master
9/2 New Quay
11/2 Forth Bridge
9 Mr Mafia
9 Knockrobin
16 Viens Chercher

This is as close to 100% as I could get. As You Like looks a pretty solid proposition and deserves to head the market for all that there is a slight stamina doubt. There is a sense of unfinished business about Station Master who looked like he could be much better than this a couple of years ago. He may just see it out better than favourite, but having shortened in the market doesn't represent much value at tissue price. Knockrobin makes no appeal at current odds and a place lay might be worth looking at.

This is my 400th blog post since inception over six years ago. Hopefully it has provided some insight along the way. Be lucky

Friday 10 July 2020

Market Rasen July 10

Four chase races once again as racing returns to the Lincolnshire venue, rails are out so we are looking at almost a furlong extra for some races, at least half that for all.

The going is once again described as good, good to soft in places with 24mm of rain having fallen this week alone, this coming on top of 10mm of watering applied on Monday and Tuesday.

The recent meeting at Stratford became a farce for betting purposes with a small amount of overnight rain having a huge impact on over-watered turf. That track has suffered greatly from irrigation in the last few years although that begs the question, How many tracks have you looked after?

We all have our own view on watering and are entitled to them. And while the proper judges in the racing will tell you the going is the most over-used metric in the game, personally I like to know what type of ground we are going to be racing on before placing a bet.

As if there aren't enough variables already.

Southwell is another place that gets plenty of irrigation and with the chases at the front end of their cards, I'm always more tentative when I bet there in case the going has turned to sponge.

Thankfully we have a couple of novice hurdles early on today's card although the chase track can ride a good bit certainly did last season.

I've only taken an interest in the first race over larger obstacles (1.00), which I priced up because I suspected the front end of the market would be underpriced, and so it has proved.

Envoy Special has been chalked up as 3/1 favourite purely on the fact he's trained by P Nicholls, which, okay, is fair enough. I called it wrong with Captain Buck's at Stratford and Envoy Special is another that hasn't found winning under rules easy.

Placed three times and bombed on three other occasions, he's never looking like winning in any of them, albeit in decent handicap company. The hood/tongue tie combination remains and while the great trainer can of course turn it around, he's one to oppose in a tidy little novice chase.

What he does have is experience over much of the field, and those that have already had a go haven't looked that great, while others are coming to it a bit late in the day.

Notnow Seamus didn't get it together for D Skelton last season after going through the handicap over hurdles, he's a big horse although Flat bred, and needs good ground.

Ballyhome likes it at Market Rasen with two wins and second over timber, however his latest win came off a mark of 121 and the age of nine may have reached his peak. Not that big, he failed to cope with bad ground here over fences after sprawling on landing in a two horse race. Better is expected now but he's another I made a bigger price.

Forecast is 3/17 over hurdles and made an okay debut over fences last season behind the really promising Schiehallion Munro, but that was a way below his best over timber and he is a very sturdy individual that lacks scope for fences.

He makes his debut for Dr Newland, who isn't quite firing just yet. Likes to come from behind, which may not be easy here.

That essentially leaves three of the more interesting ones.

Henrietta Bell gets the mares allowance and had plenty of experience in the last calendar year, winning three times including off 120 in a handicap.

She's a game staying type that can front run, but she may lack the basic ability of some of these, so will need to jump very well to land this on her chase debut. Not implausable, of course.

The Sweeney will be popular with the Lavelle yard in flying form, with this one having won twice here last summer latterly off 128.

The nagging question in my mind is why they haven't sent him over fences before now, having had a total of 16 runs over timber and already going on nine years of age.

His form flattened out last autumn and while we can expect his best effort today, running to 130 may not be good enough.

One I expect is capable of a personal best in this race is No Hidden Charges, trained by Neil Mulholland who went close to winning at Stratford with a decent novice chaser in Scardura.

The seven-year-old took an age to get his act together in Irish Points two years ago prior to winning twice, before picking up a trio of novice hurdles last spring for current connections.

He then spent the serious part of the season in much higher grade, acquitting himself well at big odds in Class 2 events, looking every inch a chasing type.

With stamina proven and all that experience between the flags behind him, I'm expecting T Scu to play catch me if you can on the son of Scorpion, for whom the ground should be okay so long as it's not proper soft.

In a 101% book I made him the marginal favourite at 9/2 so at general price of 5/1 he rates a decent enough bet as there are too many question marks about all the others. Henrietta Ball and The Sweeney are the others that look a bit bigger odds than they should be.

The 1.30 is interesting in that there could be plenty of pace on with two or three that like to press from the front, and in a race where few appealed I thought old Dandridge might fall in on another drop in grade.

This is trainer Charlie Longsdon's time of year and Dandridge has yet to face C4 opposition. With that fast pace virtually assured, an each-way investment might be a bit of fun.

The other two chase races made little appeal.

Good luck.

Wednesday 8 July 2020

Stratford July 8

Our cup truly runneth over today with four chase races to examine as racing returns to the home of The Bard.

They've had plenty of rain in recent weeks and although it's only good to soft in places you could envisage it being a little worse than that, but we'll have a much better idea after the first two races.

A very decent novices chase for the time of year with four horses rated in the 130s and another three in the 120s.

Seddon's form has by far the most depth to it and it is little surprise that he has been put in quite short despite this being his first start since the back-end of the 18-19 season.

He was fairly consistent in group company as a novice hurdler while looking rather paceless over the minimum trip and also over further, and he looks sure to benefit from 3m in due course.

I wasn't that taken by his physique or the shape he made over hurdles and while he may have the best engine he's not one to be taking short prices about here.

There are quite a few that are interesting, not just today but going forward, including the mare Diamond Gait, who looks sure to relish this better ground, and Scardura who was highly tried after making a good impression when winning his maiden hurdle.

Leapaway racked up a sequence two summers ago and justified his rating to a point in two defeats the following spring, and he looks like a chaser in the making with plenty of speed on his side.

Longhouse Sale looks speedy but has a problem when coming off the bridle, all his winning coming on a sound surface.

Beat The Judge has had a spin on the Flat but it remains to be seen if this son of Canford Cliffs will take to fences.

All told, it's probably a race to watch for all that I'm tempted to take on the favourite in some way.

Not much interest here as the market has narrowed it down to a couple, neither making much appeal at the odds.

This is a much weaker affair, a basement 0-100 handicap over the minimum trip, and a pretty poor one at that.

Wisecracker heads the market and will be popular after the trainer had a first-time-out winner at Uttoxeter in these colours, but this horse is no win machine having fallen in last time out in a race that took no winning.

Previously second five times over fences, he's more likely to chase one or two home after travelling well for much of the contest.

Peterborough has come in for support despite making little impression in four chase starts last term, his mark having tumbled as a result though and he languishes some 12lb below his winning hurdles number.

The selection here though is My Renaissance, who is generally kept busy throughout the summer months and had a pipe-opener on the level last month.

His four chase wins have come on tight left-handed tracks over the minimum trip, and he requires goodish ground to produce his best form.

He bolted up off a similar mark two years ago, and won from a much higher rating last August. Like most horses of his ability, he needs things to fall into place, but he can generally be relied upon to pay his way at this time of year and at 8/1 is a backable price.

An interesting race where Captain Buck's and Flying Verse head the market, but this looks wide open.
The former will be popular with trainer P Nicholls going strongly after the break, but his chase record reads 0/12 with seven placings albeit from higher marks.

Enthusiasts will point to a victory between the flags in March as the start of a revival and while he's young enough to turn things around I'm not sure beating up a couple of 12 year olds warrants favouritism in a deep race for the grade.

Flying Verse won over C&D in October from this mark, but that was a weaker contest and he's a bit in and out. David Dennis has teamed up with T Symonds so it will be interesting to see if that alliance brings more success than the pair did as individuals...the horse stays further than this but may lack the class of some.

Bold jumping front runner Monbeg River has slipped into a C4 race for the first time in years and he could get several of these off the bridle if he's ready to go, but that would be of concern.  He's been lacking his usual consistency of late hence the drop to a mark of 120.

Montys Award is a bit of a job horse, landing a touch a couple of seasons back before going down by a head 12 months ago having looked to have the race sewn up.

Both those races were at Worcester and he's clearly best suited by a left handed oval, so this should suit and he loves decent ground...if it does turn out to be softer than the official this would count against him.

His record is patchy, so I'm hoping he's best caught fresh and back down to a mark of 118 be should be thereabouts.

Cut The Corner might be competitive from a depleted mark but rather like Monbeg River he's essentially been regressing at the age of 12 and it's difficult to part with the hard-earned having taken a year out.

Monty's Award is the play here in the hope that a sound gallop will see him travel deep into the race.

Monday 6 July 2020

Uttoxeter July 6

There doesn't seem a great deal of point getting financially involved in the big race of the day, the Summer Cup at 3.30, with so many 'ifs' and 'buts'surrounding the entire field.

At this stage of the jumps season I'm not really looking too hard to find betting opportunities, there will be one or two along the way that jump out and that will do for the time being.

Very few of them look to be well handicapped at the current time, Brian Boranha possibly the best looking at the weights and one that could travel best through the race, however his finishing effort has never been much to shout about. A possible back-to-lay but nothing more.

Bandsman will be ridden cold as they step him up to beyond 3m for the first time, but there's not much evidence to suggest he wants a stamina test.

Padleyourowncanoe isn't bred for it either and with only two runs over fences to his name he doesn't make much appeal near the top of the market for all that his unexposed profile over obstacles suggests he could have more to offer at some stage.

I suppose if you look at it like that, the two market leaders are worth opposing and take out around 30% of the Betfair market, so there should be some value elsewhere but it's too much of a guess-up for me, on their day you could make a fair case for most of them.

The 4.30 was much more interesting as I quickly put a line through quite a few, what's more a quick look at the early tissue prices suggested there was an angle with King's Temptation put in at 11/4.

I wouldn't say I was B Case's biggest fan and he's only had two winners in handicaps coming off this sort of break in the last five years, one of which was Croco Bay's Cheltenham Festival victory which came in at 180 on the machine.

He ran no sort of race off a similar absence last April when 2/1fav so without going into further analysis that I feel is against him, he's one to oppose although looking at the odds this morning that seems to be the general consensus.

Wilberdragon doesn't win out of turn and although he's bred to stay this 3m2f trip, the evidence so far suggests that the flat 2m7f of Worcester is about his limit, although you can understand them having a try as he's pretty exposed over shorter trips.

Midnight Magic was quietly progressive at a lower level during the first half of last season, since when he's undergone wind surgery. Stamina is definitely his forte and of all the runners here you'd expect him to be the fittest coming from the Pipe kennel.

He's been very slow to get his act together but they've persevered and he could be one that keeps pulling out a bit more as he gets older. This 0-120 is a level up on what he's usually performed at though, and he will need to find that further progression to win this, but he's respected.

The most interesting is perhaps Lord Getaway, who was shaping up into a fair staying chaser a couple of seasons back but lost his way last winter.

Let's get the negatives out of the way; he's a bit of a one-paced plodder and a big unit prone to shoddy jumping, however he was fine at Cheltenham on good ground when fourth in a decent contest over a year ago and a return to that form would be more than enough to take this.

He ran okay on his first two starts last term on tight tracks that wouldn't have been to his liking, but was then out of sorts in an Exeter marathon before having a couple of spins over hurdles, which wouldn't be his bag.

Hopefully the five month absence has freshened him up and this looks a good race to start him back. He is actually 1/1 at the track after grinding out a hurdles victory in the quag so does tick a few boxes, the main point for me being that he's the class act of the race if fit enough to show it, and that he avoids any serious errors.

Of the others Pride of Parish might be interesting from a stable adept at bringing one back from an absence, but he might not get home if this does become a stiff test. Even his best Point form might not be good enough.

The Happy Chappy has been a desperate disappointment since winning twice in 2017, looking an increasingly hard ride and he's without headgear today. He's had two wind ops, and is hard to back even knowing that the talent is there to win off a much reduced mark.

Still Believing shows bits and pieces of form at the age of 12 and is handicapped to go close, but the headgear she's worn for her three most recent wins is left off, and is not one to have a great deal of faith in.

Let's look at the betting, as of 10.30am.

The firms are 10/3 the field although 4/1 on the machine for Midnight Magic. There's not much 5/1 about Lord Getaway and to be honest 9/2 is probably about right as there are question marks over his well-being. The one that looks over-priced if anything is Still Believing at 12/1, so if I do end up playing this race I'll be having a small bet on Lord Getaway, with a few shekels on the Evan Williams veteran who I reckon should be more like an 8 or 9/1 shot in this field.

Wednesday 1 July 2020

Southwell July 1

Welcome back! Must admit I've never been much of a fan of summer jumps but after three blank months and more it'll be great to see the twig-hoppers back in action.

Should this burst of enthusiasm last I'll be putting down some thoughts on these pages in the coming weeks and months, focusing on the handicap chases.These are not 'tipping' pieces, although I'll make it clear whether or not I intend to bet.

The first two races at Southwell today are the subject of today's focus with all eyes on the P Nicholls-trained Nineohtwooneoh in the opening 12.00, a 0-105 novice handicap. After showing little in novice hurdles, he came good at the second time of asking off a mark of 94, dotting up at Musselburgh when well-backed.

He looked a big, staying chase type and a natural jumper, and I doubt if a 10lb higher mark would stop him today. The main problem with him is that he has been reported to have a breathing problem on at least three occasions, and presumably the lockdown has prevented the trainer from sending him for surgery.

He looks like he might have to do everything on the bridle, as he looked one paced on his next outing at Taunton, when he again showed a propensity to hang badly right under pressure. Today's better ground will surely suit in that regard, and he sneaks into a race that won't take much winning.

Here's a look at some of the opposition;

Glengar; Looked a safe conveyance when last seen on Boxing Day but faded very tamely after travelling well into the straight.

Short Flight; Trainer can ready one after a break but it's almost two years since he was last seen, and goes without the visor that seemed to bring about improvement.

Oxwich Bay; A thoroughly disappointing individual, runner-up six times over timber usually finding very little for pressure, whether held up or ridden prominently. Chase form is of a higher standard but has failed to complete 3/7 starts.

Zen Master; Another flawed individual who is 1/23 under rules, not usually finding a great deal and often goes freely.

Tazka; Decent juvenile filly but struggled in handicaps as a result, on a more realistic mark now starting out over fences.

The Last Bar; Winless mare for these connections in 10 hurdles starts, a 10lb drop for this first outing in two years at least gives her some leeway. More of a stayer.

Elle Est Grande; A big weak chasing type in the first half of last season, looking all over the winner two out only to lose three places from the last on penultimate start. That was over 3m, this trip and better ground, in addition to the switch to fences, means she is of interest.

Conclusion; With very little to make the market I thought the Nicholls horse would be around 11/8, 6/4 early doors as you're essentially betting he jumps a clear round and doesn't come off the bridle. Neither of those is guaranteed however, and while surprised by initial quotes of 5/2 and bigger, I won't be going in any shorter. Glengar and Oxwich Bay could travel furthest into the race but neither is expected to find enough off the bridle although the big weight concession may help the former. I made the note that Elle Est Grande would be 'much better in time' back in October and she is one I'll be watching keenly, it will be interesting if she is given a positive ride. The trainer has had a quiet month on the Flat which tempers enthusiasm somewhat and she has been very weak in the market so far, but a quote of 14/1 or bigger will tempt me to play very small each-way.

A Class 3 0-135 over 2m headed by the Skelton-trained Azzuri.

Azzuri; 5/16 over fences, however at around 2m on good ground his form is 1131141. Was being targeted at the spring festivals after getting re-handicapped on bad ground and is just 2lb higher than when hosing up at Ayr. Will face rivals for the lead but he's very quick and a fast, fluent jumper.

Tonto's Spirit; Paying for consistency on a stiff enough mark.

Tidal Watch; Set to win last summer when coming down at the last, 7lb higher now but that didn't look a particularly strong race. Flat bred.

Cracking Destiny; Improved for new yard and held off this mark when last seen over fences, travels strongly so should be suited by a strong run race.

Goldencard; With a new yard and likely to need the run and he looks high in the weights in this company.

Capital Force; Modest strike rate and not the type to find much off the bridle, although finally back to winning mark and would benefit from a pace burn-up.

Ballyvic Boru; Largely disappointing, popping up last autumn but unable to back that up off higher marks, and has now had two wind ops this year.

Ontopoftheworld; Front runner, well placed to win a handful of small field contests in 2018, off a year when below that form in February. Enough to prove from a yard that had just two winners in the September-March period.

Isaac Wonder; Not bred for fences but ok first season and does look the part, mark is a shade high on balance but likely to improve and had a very decent pipe opener on the Flat recently.

Atlantic Storm; Won over C&D for D Skelton two years ago but seems to save his best for Stratford, jockey doesn't have a great record on him and he might be one for smaller fields later in the year.

Conclusion; This looks tailor-made for Azzuri and providing he's away smartly from the gate should take the world of beating, especially if in the same form as when winning at Ayr over a year ago. Early quotes of 3/1 and bigger were too big, he was a well-backed 5/2 shot when landing that strong Ayr race and this Class 3 event is easier, so I see him going off shorter than that. Second favourite Cracking Destiny is capable of further improvement after progressing well last season, but does have a higher mark to overcome. The race should be run to suit his strong travelling style but wouldn't want to give Azzuri too much rope. If the likes of Tonto's Spirit and Ontopoftheworld help set a furious pace that could set things up for Cracking Destiny, or even Capital Force if he's on song, while Isaac Wonder is worth keeping an eye on but is a bit too inexperienced at this stage of his career.