The two-day Craven meeting begins at Newmarket tomorrow but good jumps cards are the order of the day at Exeter and Kempton and we start at the latter where the lightly-raced Grey Wulff (3.15) is taken to build on a promising comeback at Leicester over 3m when returning from a two-year break.
The formbook will say he finished stone last but he travelled like the best horse for much of the contest and is entitled to come on for the run given that was his first start for over two years.
The selection has been given the best part of three months to get over that effort and if he copes with today’s quicker ground he should go very close from a 2lb lower mark. Aidan Coleman takes over in the saddle.
Nicky Henderson’s Act Alone (3.50) steps up in trip having disappointed when third at Market Rasen last time and can confirm his earlier promise when scoring at Doncaster back in January. He will make a decent novice chaser next season but can take this at the expense of the other penalised runner Gallery Exhibition and Boogie In The Barn.
The mare Miss Ballantyne has the physique to make a chaser but she has disappointed in both starts over the larger obstacles to date and is reluctantly overlooked.
Merrion Square won over C&D on similar ground last May and is a danger despite shouldering top-weight, but I give the nod to Muldoon’s Picnic (4.20) who will love the good ground and has been progressing well on ground softer than ideal this term.
Spanish Treasure has never fulfilled his initial promise but is undeniably well handicapped on bits of old form and I would be interested to see if there was any market support for the gelding, but the maiden Cocktails At Dawn (4.50) could be very well treated on his handicap debut having shaped with considerable promise when third to Ballyalton at Cheltenham back in December.
He was out of his depth in the Neptune at the Festival last month but this looks more his grade. Irish Buccaneer finished runner up in the corresponding race 12 months ago off a 3lb lower mark and wasn’t beaten too far at Uttoxeter on his belated reappearance last month.
The Victor Dartnall horses continue to run below par but there is no question that Mic’s Delight (4.10) is well handicapped on his best form and he can bounce back at Exeter on a track that he has already scored over hurdles.
All his wins have been gained going right-handed and he is 3lb lower than when not getting home over 3m at Taunton on his latest start.
The grey Take The Crown (3.35) is 10lb higher than when scoring at Towcester but is revelling on the better ground and can defy the rise in the 2m Handicap Hurdle for Henry Oliver and Denis O’Regan. This is a better race and there are a host of potential dangers but Take The Crown gets into the race off bottom-weight and should be followed until he meets with defeat.
The opener can go to Sego Success (2.00) a point winner who scored at Southwell in December before being bogged down in a Grade 2 at Haydock back in February.
The hope is that today’s better ground will suit and he can get the better of four other previous winners in the field. The maiden Milanese took a heavy fall at Chepstow last time and this might be a run to restore confidence although he is a fascinating contender.
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