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There are two major unknowns in this race and if the market speaks favourably of either Champagne Platinum  or Rathhill  , then I’d be seriously considering keeping them on my side. 

The former had a campaign over fences last season and looked to have been plotted for a race at the Festival, in whihc he went off a well-backed 11/2 favourite. He didn’t get going until too late in the day in that race, though.

He’s not overly reliable, but he does have plenty of talent. As does his stablemate Rathhill, who went off favourite for the Grade 1 Tolworth Hurdle two years ago. He’s been well beaten on both of his starts since, but is now rated 133.

If he’s over whatever it was that was causing him an issue, then he could play a huge part under Jonjo O’Neill Jr.

HOWLING MILAN  was in the process of running a huge race at Newbury last December and looked like winning until he tipped up at the last. He clearly loves it here and still looks fairly treated, so he could run a big race.


The top of the market for this race is hugely congested and is the most competitive and deep renewal of this race in recent years.

Black Op  has some good form in the bag and ran OK on his seasonal debut but would need to brush him his jumping. He’s got plenty of class though and was the best of these over hurdles.

Mister Malarky  ran well in this race last year and looks weighted to run well again, but you’d want to see his yard in better form.

They’ve been in-and-out of the winners without really gathering momentum and I’m not convinced they’re firing on all cylinders.

At a huge price, ARDLETHEN  may have been overlooked. He’s enthusiastic and looked to still be learning his game in novices last season.

He is still lightly raced and sneaks in at the bottom of the weights and with his team in flying form, he could outrun his massive price. 


This is the first time since 2013 that this race will be run on genuine good ground, which looks as though it could suit plenty of the runners.

Long time market leader Pym  was campaigned highly last season, but his form had tailed off as he didn’t manage to complete his last two starts.

He looked a different horse on his seasonal reappearance at Sandown three weeks ago when he beat If The Cap Fits, and that would have put him spot on for this.

His trainer Nicky Henderson has a 65 per cent strike rate at Newcastle in the past five years!

Henderson also saddles BRAVE EAGLE  , who will appreciate this return to good ground. He was a good winner of the Summer Cup at Uttoxeter off a mark of 152 in June 2019 and things haven’t gone right since.

He didn’t get his ground for the majority of last season and was campaigned accordingly. His comeback run at Newbury was satisfactory, but he needed the run, it was only his third start in a year.

He’s been dropped 3lb and with the first-time blinkers, I expect him to run a huge race.


Phillip Hobbs’ yard have started to come into form now and they’ve been among the winners of late. ZANZA  had been set two tough tasks on his first two starts over fences, but he ran well in both and as a result looks fairly handicapped.

This is much easier going and he has a super record when he runs at Newbury. He’s won two and finished sixth in a big field handicap, running very well, on his other start.

Marracudja  might just need to drop another couple of pounds in the handicap, but he’s starting to look like he’s going to go close one of these days.

I expect that he could be ridden more prominently here and might be doing his best work late on.


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