With trainers being creatures of habit it’s no surprise to see last year’s winner, Nigel Twiston-Davies, saddle GUY .
This is a horse with plenty of ability, judged on his recent Huntingdon success. He ran in three above-average races over hurdles and earned an opening chase mark of 113, which he made a total mockery of.
He’s been put up 12lb for that success, but he was by far the best horse in that race and comes into this one as the most unexposed.
With conditions looking to suit and his yard in fine form, he should take all of the beating.
The Sodexo Handicap Hurdle is always a competitive race and is often a stepping stone for races like the Greatwood Hurdle at Cheltenham, which come around three weeks later.
This year, Nicky Henderson is represented by COUNTISTER , whose season didn’t take off last year.
She started her campaign with a great effort in the aforementioned Greatwood Hurdle, where she was bang there until fading up the hill.
Her next – and final – start of the season came in a heavy-ground handicap hurdle at Ascot, a race won by a tearaway leader, with not much else getting close.
Countister did manage to finish third in the Country Hurdle in 2019 on her first start for almost a year, so can go well fresh, and I think she’s very well handicapped off her mark of 135.
The Paul Nicholls-trained Malaya has some good form at Ascot and won’t be too far away, either.
The Sodexo Gold Cup has been won by some good horses over the years and is always a race to watch back again as there will be plenty of clues for the season ahead.
COMMANCHE RED has to be high up on any list, purely based on what he has achieved last season.
On his penultimate start he beat Simply The Betts by nine lengths – that horse then went and won a competitive handicap at the Festival and is now rated 157. So, you’d think he shouldn’t be far away off his current mark of 150.
His season was rounded off with a good third in the Betway Pendil Novices’ Chase behind Who Dares Wins and Southfield Stone, with the latter a winner at Cheltenham last weekend.
Flying Angel needs everything to fall right but isn’t too far off his latest winning mark and may be best to catch when fresh.
With 20 runners declared, the 0-130 handicap hurdle looks very competitive and there are plenty in the race with chances.
Of all of them, ARRIVEDERCI runs for the very in-form Jonjo O’Neill with Jonathan Burke in the saddle. He was still weak last season and will improve with another summer on his back.
He ended his season with a good victory at Wincanton, and that followed a good second at Sandown the time before. He looks fairly handicapped off 128 and should go close.
Do Wanna Know is two from three for Charlie Longsdon, with the exception being a fall. He’s improving nicely and, with his yard in good form, I expect him to go well.
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