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
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