3-50 BETFRED CESAREWITCH – 2 M 2 F
Oriental Fox showed something like a return to form when last seen out at Longchamp in September. Despite finding Fly With Me and Walzertakt too strong last time, this step back to handicap company could well see him defy top weight under a power packed ride from Joe Fanning. Mark Johnston has a good reputation at winning these valuable handicaps and despite a career high mark, this lightly raced seven year old would enjoy any further drying of the ground.
Quick Jack was narrowly touched off in this race last year when partnered by Richard Hughes and he certainly loves these big fields. Ryan Moore’s booking certainly takes the eye and the combination should make a bold did to better last year’s gutsy effort. The six year old landed two races at Galway throughout the summer but he possibly came back too soon at York when finishing midfield behind Litigant in the Ebor. He is worth another go and looks the biggest threat to the selection. Low Key won the trial here a few weeks ago for David Pipe and Tom Marquand.
They combine once again this afternoon and should also go well off a relatively low weight. This will take another step forward against some serious opposition and they have place prospects here. Oriental Fox is one of only two previous course and distance winners in the line-up and he can utilise that experience to his advantage in this stamina sapping event. Now that he is a bit older and a bit stronger, there is every reason to expect him to be amongst the places.
3-55 WEATHERBY’S HAMILTON HURDLE – 2 MILES 11 YDS
Bivouac managed to win his first couple of outings for Nicky Henderson last season and it would be of little surprise to see him go well fresh once again. His past victories came on flat tracks such as Sandown and Kempton, so the stiff track at Chepstow should suit him. He would appreciate any rain if it were to fall as both wins have come on a rain softened surface.
Monsieur Gibraltar will prove popular with punters given that he is trained by Paul Nicholls. The Ditcheat handler has taken this race four times since 2007 and the French import is proven over three furlongs further. He could do no more than win on his debut for the yard but nothing has emerged from the race to boost the form and that tempers enthusiasm. Karezak represents Alan King who trained Handazan to win this race a couple of seasons ago. He is burdened with top weight but that is simply because he is proven at this level. He was consistent in graded events last year and he could surprise a few if fit enough to do himself justice. He is versatile regarding ground conditions and commands respect.
Noel Fehily is notable jockey booking by Nicky Henderson and this Bivouac is likely to make an even bigger impression this season. The form of his previous two previous wins has been franked by the likes of San Benedeto and Storm Force Ten. The likes of Box Office and Tea In Transvaal are decent prospects but are completely unproven at this level and Bivouac can make the frame.
4-30 TOTEPOOL SILVER TROPHY HANDICAP HURDLE (GRADE 3) – 2 M 3 F
Carningli is proven at trips of up to two and a half miles so this looks to be a sensible starting point for the Rebecca Curtis trained six year old. Three of his four wins have come on good to soft ground and twice he has won following a break. Conditions ought to be very much in his favour this afternoon and with Paul Townend taking the reins this afternoon for the first time, this course winner has to be high on any shortlist.
Tea For Two made giant strides for Lizzie Kelly and Nick Williams last season. He was last seen pulling up behind Martello Tower in the Albert Bartlett at Cheltenham, but he should appreciate this drop in grade and he looks to be a live danger. His chances would increase significantly if any rain were to fall but given there is none in the forecast, he is given a watching brief only. Sound Investment is already proven at this level and has carried big weights to victory in similar handicaps at Newbury and Sandown. Paul Nicholls loves to have winners here and with Harry Cobden taking off ten pounds, he too enters the reckoning.
Carningli improved with each start last season and connections will be hoping that he can start from where he left off. This locally trained runner looks likely to go onto better things in time and he is worthy of each way support here.
SATURDAY 3-50 NEWMARKET ORIENTAL FOX (E/W)
SATURDAY 3-55 CHEPSTOW BIVOUAC (E/W)
SATURDAY 4-30 CHEPSTOW CARNINGLI (E/W)