Aye Aye Captain!
Man On The Spot previews all eight races to be screened on terrestrial television on Saturday.
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David Pipe has expressed doubts about whether this sharp track will suit THE LIQUIDATOR but the six-year-old, very impressive when winning a Grade 2 by 15 lengths at Cheltenham, may still have the class to prevail given he had the pace to win a Grade 1 bumper at Punchestown last season. Josses Hill made a confident start over hurdles at Newbury and probably has more scope than stablemate Royal Boy. He may be a bigger danger than Upazo, who may not have beaten much in two runs at Fairyhouse this season and didn't look anything special last year. Garde La Victoire couldn't match the speed of stayer Ballyalton at Cheltenham last time which suggests he'll also be found wanting here, though is still preferred to Creepy and Prince Siegfried.
George Nympton could only finish sixth in this last year off the same mark but did return to winning ways on heavy ground at Uttoxeter last time, taking advantage of Massena's blunder two out to sweep by close home. The runner-up has won since so he can't be ignored but SEW ON TARGET will also handle conditions and looks better handicapped. This represents a big drop in class for Colin Tizzard's nine-year-old, who has won over this shorter trip in the past. Dolatulo won easily at Lingfield last month and Granville Island is only 4lb higher than when scoring at Haydock while Prince Of Dreams can improve on his third at Leicester. But Al Alfa's jumping remains a concern and Dunowen Point could do with some help from the handicapper. Dare Me hasn't raced since May.
Contests like this are never as straightforward as they first appear. Champion Court, who was hampered and unseated his rider in the King George here last month, finished half-a-length ahead of CAPTAIN CHRIS and 12 lengths ahead of Ghizao in the Peterborough Chase at Huntingdon in November but is undoubtedly better on good ground. Philip Hobbs' charge, who never runs a bad race here, will strip fitter today and can reverse the form and take this as he should have too much for Willie Mullins' Twinlight off level weights, though the latter has won six of his nine starts over fences including his last three. With her mare's allowance, Pepite Rose could run well but Tataniano faces a stiff task at the weights.
African Gold hasn't really taken to fences and it's no surprise to see the formerly useful novice back over hurdles. Seymour Eric and Who Owns Me are others who have been chasing lately but Ascot scorer Bygones Sovereign must have a chance. The longer trip shouldn't be a problem and, though 4lb wrong in the weights, Kieron Edgar claims a valuable 7lb. DROP OUT JOE, representing last year's winning trainer, is worth a second look having only given best close home when trying to give Warden Hill 6lb at Doncaster. A mark of 129 looks manageable on his handicap debut and he'll be helped by Kielan Woods' claim. Oscar Fortune also tackles handicap company for the first time but his stable has been going through a lean spell and Haydock fourth Ballyculla is probably in the assessor's grip now. Cyrien Star was chasing a four-timer when odds-on at Uttoxeter last month but didn't appear to handle the heavy going and conditions here will be similar.
This is always a competitive affair and usually run at a good pace. Party Rock looks to have too much weight nowadays but Saphir Du Rheu has to be of interest despite having been raised 15lb since beating the re-opposing Home Run by eight lengths at Sandown last month. Several of his rivals also arrive in top form, however, with the lightly-raced Junction Fourteen on a hat-trick after winning by 11 lengths over course and distance on Boxing Day. Like Minded also arrives off the back of a victory over track and trip and Maller Tree, Foxcub, Spirit Of Shankly and If In Doubt will be doing their best to add to recent victories. RIVER MAIGUE won over 2m here last season and went on to run in the Supreme Novices'. This will be his first try over a longer trip but he should last home having won over 3m between the flags. There was a lot to like about his comeback third at Sandown and this may be within his capabilities.
Nigel and Sam Twiston-Davies won this last year with The New One but this year's representative, Splash Of Ginge, isn't in the same league, though did show some improvement last time behind Irving at Ascot. Creepy, Killala Quay and Rathvinden are conceding 3lb to their rivals. Charlie Longsdon's charge may be the pick of that trio having stayed on strongly to win in this grade at Sandown last time, though Rathvinden could be anything after a facile debut win over 2m at Cork. MASTERS HILL was the only one to make a race of it with King's Palace at Cheltenham. Conditions should bring his stamina into play again and, as he holds Potters Cross on the formbook, he gets the nod as Deputy Dan and Garrahalish are stepping out of maiden company.
This is an easy track but there are still doubts about Nadiya De La Vega and Jump City's ability to stay this far. Native Gallery and On Trend have been disappointing so far this term and Planet Of Sound is making his seasonal reappearance while the handicapper seems reluctant to relinquish his grip on Buddy Bolero. Relax returned to form over 3m2f at Ffos Las and will be forcing the pace here. He's 5lb higher now but still looks the biggest danger to GOOD ORDER. Tom George's is a consistent performer and appears to have struck up a good understanding with Alain Cawley. The partnership scored on its reappearance at Leicester and should be capable of handling the step up in grade here.
This is likely to turn into a real slog and it may be too much for Carruthers and Master Overseer, neither of which have been seen since pulling up in the Midlands Grand National at Uttoxeter last March. Hey Big Spender won this in 2012, with recent Exeter scorer Major Malarkey fourth, and is 10lb lower. He must have a chance if fully recovered from his exertions in the Welsh National but stamina could be a problem for Noble Legend and Solix. Safran De Cotte quickly lost interest at Haydock last time and Any Currency's recent form has been over the cross-country fences, though he looked unlucky last time and does stay well. Vesper Belle was fancied for the Becher Chase at Aintree last month but got no further than the first fence. It remains to be seen if that has left a mark while the handicapper has done novice Shotgun Paddy no favours. BOYFROMNOWHERE won the Southern National with a bit in hand at Fontwell in November. The ground was very testing that day but he jumped really well and, only 4lb higher now, can follow up in this higher grade. Loch Ba could figure if he stays but this may be too tough for Kelso scorer Royale Knight from 3lb out of the handicap.