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Preview 04 April 2008

3.45 Aintree Topham Handicap Chase Handicap Chase Class 2 (National Course) good to soft 2m 5F 110yards

1. Natal - A winner last time out and that was possibly the best performance the horse has put forward and seems to be in good form and has a chance in this handicap today over the national fences if jumping well for a top yard that is in some good form and Nick Schofield helps the horse out to take the weight down and still looks nicely handicapped. Going the right way he has to be one of the fancied runners in this top class looking handicap and should jump around this track as he travels extremely well on a track such as this and should act under the conditions. The fact that the last run was his best is a bonus and shouldn't be overlay burdened in a field of this size,

My Rating - 147

2. Roman Ark - has enjoyed a decent season and has some decent graded form to give him some claims at this level, but he looks to have a tough task from top weight and isn't sure to have more to come as he is quite exposed under the conditions of this race. Beaten by Marcel last time wasn't terrible form as that rival ran a cracker on day one in a similar class handicap to this race and the run prior to that when well beaten by Bagan was maybe slightly a better run then last time. Should handle the track with a good galloping nature, but major concerns over this trip having failed five times and the ground could have done with being more testing for his chances.

My rating - 140

3. Too Forward - has a grade one form to his name and the fact that he hasn't got top weight in this handicap maybe suggest that the old boys better days are behind him and with the defeat to Vodka Bleu most probably his best effort to date he is slightly held at this level now and needs a easier task then this top class 2 handicap and will have chances when either contesting a level weight race at listed level or a easier handicap. Paired with Timmy Murphy is eye catching and he stays this trip well but with ground not as tough as ideal he looks to play a likely minor role even though these fences could be ideal for him.

My rating - 143

4. Gwanako - Has placed form in a top handicap at Cheltenham and could well have paid the price with the handicapper raising him 4lbs for that defeat of over 10L to a exposed type and with that form the best he has to offer so far over fences he will call on improvement which is possible for this unexposed 5yo to take a hand in this handicap and rates as a dark horse in the make up this race with ground very much in his favour and having handled a big field handicap before which is important for a lightly raced horse. Ruby Walsh has sided with this horse and that is eye catching and the yard are most probably hopeful that he will improve to overcome this mark in this handicap.

My Rating - 149

5. Kenzo III - has always had a look of a national horse for Nicky Henderson and is very unexposed for his age and the latest win was a fantastic round of jumping to win at Wincanton even though this is a much better race then he contested last time. A 10lbs rise in the weights gives him a harder task then maybe if he didn't win that smaller race in this and they could be kicking their selves if it is the hike that is his undoing. Has more improvement to come over these trips so he could overcome the 10lbs as he was ahead of the handicapper and with the ground very much in his favour and the track likely to suit with some good left handed form on the book.

My rating - 145

6. Macs Flamingo - the first runner in this handicap for the irish and a horse that has achieved grade 3 form which would stand up quite high in this handicap in terms of quality for a class 2 handicap that could take graded status if attracting a field as good as this in the future. Looks handicapped to go well of this mark today and the jockey is a very accomplished lad in the saddle and could steer him home to take this prize back to Ireland. Exposed as a horse he doesn't have any improvement left in him so the fact he looked handicapped to go well is a bonus, but he needs something to spark him back into form and may want it to turn into a slog to be at his very best that is likely to be needed with a few well handicapped horses in this race.

My rating - 138

7. Crozan - Has a profile of a disappointing horse since his Uk Debut for the yard and the fact that Micky keeps so much faith in this horse is a little surprising. Often runs with blinkers on to sharpen his act up he is often beaten in big fields when there is more then one front runner in the race and looks still high in the weights for the over evaluation on his early form in this country. There looks to be no immediate improvement in this horse and they may need to try their hand at different things to be at the top of their game with this horse to have a solid chance. The ground and trip have brought the best out of the horse but this flat track isn't certain to improve him and he still looks weighted out of it by the best part of a stone.

My Rating - 138

8. Palarshan - Stayed on behind Gwanako in the racing post plate at Cheltenham and often runs his best race in those types of races at Cheltenham. However he looks to hold a chance at the weights today having achieved some solid grade 3 forms in the past and even though he has no improvement to come he has to be handicapped to go well with some solid recent form in his book. A dry morning would help him out a lot in this race today as he is best on good ground and with the ground described softer then advertised at present he may just struggle on the ground with cut as his chances would improve with him nicely weighted to go close but the juice may just tipping the scales another against him.

My rating - 146

9. In the High Grass - goes for the easier task then the grand national having won a listed chase last time in Ireland and will be hopping to give Tom Taffee some more joy after landing yet another Cheltenham winner last month and in the high grass still looks well handicapped by the UK Handicapper despite that victory and gives the Irish a stronger hand and has the ground very much in his favour today for this handicap and the listed class form could well stand in good stead in this handicap as he looks about spot on for his chance. The Trip could have him improving further as he looks to step up in trip today and with the last run showing improvement he rates as a chance in this today.

My rating - 147

10. Black Hills - caught the eye breathily at kempton in the racing post chase behind Gungdu and was a bitter disappointment at Cheltenham where he was well beaten and given that he didn't get home at kempton, this shorter trip on a track that will suit under the conditions to suit should see him give a much clearly view of his ability even though he looks handicapped up to his best form and is around half a stone potentially away from winning again in race such as this. Next season may be his time as he is only 8yo and is one for the notebook for maybe this in 12 months time as it is hard to draw enough improvement for him to overcome this mark today.

My rating - 144

11. Nacarat - has plenty of form in France and really has shown to be a decent galloper so far in 3 runs this season for Tom George and could have further improvement to come as he looks handicapped to run a big race today with the form with Natal reading well and debut run proving to be quite decent form. The run at Cheltenham can be over looked as he didn't handle the stiff track and with Grade 3 form in the book he looks ahead of the handicapper and can only improve under these conditions and trip. Tony Dobbin returns to the saddle and he deserves to be one of the favoured runners for this handicap.

My rating - 151

12. Eric's Charm - Was looking a very consistent horse and looks to have hit his peak with a grade 2 form to his name and is starting to full down the handicap and was bitterly disappointing in the Eider chase which a good run would have put him in with a run for the feature race tomorrow. However he looks to be on a downwards curve with him being exposed on the conditions of this race and may take a few more pounds before he is regarded as potentially well in to win a race such as this. Once dropping a few more pounds he could be of interest and maybe a shot at the Whitbread gold trophy is the way forward for this horse. The ground and trip should suit and Sandown is very much on the card.

My rating - 143

13. Mighty Matters - Won yet another race under today's pilot two runs back and looked up against it at Cheltenham where he had no excuses for the run and looks handicapped up to the hilt now after a profitable season and looks a stone out of the reach of a race such as this and will be a massive surprise if landing this prize today as he would need a lot to fail to produce there running with a exposed profile over the conditions of this race and is better passed over in my view.

My rating - 135

14. Tommy Spar - returning to the course after a long absence in which he has been kept away from the extreme conditions underfoot after running only a fair race over these fences behind Mr Pointment and is another who looks in the grip of the handicapper with no likely improvement at his time of career and with average form coming into the race based on what he achieved in the autumn he will be set much easier tasks then this in the coming months with ground till against him.

My rating - 129

15. Which Pocket - Got a deserved success last time when beating wrags to riches at Chepstow in tough conditions and still has more to come with a lightly raced profile over these conditions and that form doesn't stand up to badly at this weight. The 7lbs penalty and the tougher race means he needs to find quite a lot of improvement to land this better race, which may be a little to much to overcome in a short time for a 10yo and the trip will need to be improved on taking into account his overall performances over this distance but the ground could help him and he isn't a total lost cause.

My rating - 141

16. Your'e Special - looks likely that his days at this level are well and truly behind him after injury and the win at the Cheltenham festival in 2006 is the last time he showed some form that you could draw some confidence from as he has failed to complete on his come back. Trainned by a very shrewd trainer who will be hopping Joes edge gets in the national tomorrow. The handicapper hasn't let up with this horse just yet and he is exposed despite having much in favour if returning to some form. Unlikely to win this without a miracle, but the hope is that he shows something as it wont be long before he becomes handicapped again to go well, of course providing he proves his ability at some point.

My rating - N/A

17. Irish Raptor - Well beaten in the midlands national which turned out to be a one horse race, so it shouldn't come as to much of a surprise that in this potentially hot handicap that he looks like he is on the grip of the handicapper and needs to find some improvement from some where to have a chance of landing this race. The fences should be ideal for him given his size and the run behind Gungdu at Sandown wasn't a bad effort but he doesn't look to have conditions to suit either and is usually best early season and should be waited with until a easier race comes up at the start of next season where he could be well handicapped again.

My rating - 143

18. Time to Sell - the third runner from Ireland and another that could be well handicapped in this race today judging on the best of his form as he is dropping to a nice mark to run off, but is another that has to improve on his recent form as he is more then exposed under these conditions. Handles the ground and trip well enough to this level and certainly likely to appreciate the fences he has quite a bit in favour and has gone well at this meeting in the past which is interesting as he usually goes of the boil about this time of year and has to rate as a dark chance if returning to some form for the return to this track where he was 3rd in a novice chase to private Be 12 months ago but that is a maybe, but the conditions could hold the key after Ireland runs.

My rating - 144

19. Brother Na - Has often been quite well fancied for major chases and hasn't quite reached the heights they had thought he would and was pulled up in the national last season which has led to him suffer a long losing run. Looks handicapped up to the hilt on what he has shown when given a chance over fences, but given that he has experience over the fences he may run a big race now returning to this track. However more testing ground may have improved his chances, but he should stay this trip well. A return to form is needed but he isn't far off returning to winning ways and maybe one for Puchestown festival.

My rating - 140

20. Oodachee - Looks to have carried over his mark from hurdling and is yet to achieve the same form over fences as he achieved over hurdles and even though well handicapped in relation to his hurdle form he seems to have regressed over fences and may be a few pounds to high for this code. The course should suit and the trip and ground has him with chance of putting up his best run over fences and is wouldn't be a total surprise if he was to bounce back to some form, but given what he has shown recently it would take a leap of faith to be a backer of him from this mark in a decent looking handicap such as this and is best passed over today.

My rating - 130

21. Dreux - Didn't run a bad race in the 4 miler at Cheltenham and is taking a massive drop in distance for this race and needs to find improvement over this much shorter trip which isn't totally out of the question even though he hasn't achieved a placing over this kind of trip. Hasn't repeated his form from a grade 2 effort in his native Ireland he has plummeted down the weights and could be interesting if returning to that form over hurdles. Best maybe watched today to see if he retains the same ability over fences as the form at Cheltenham is yet to take shape and he doesn't have a lot in favour and maybe a place effort is the best he can hope for today.

My rating - 143

22. Nice Try - has been kept away from the track since struggling home at Newbury in only a fair handicap and given the turn around in form of the yard he may be ready to strike on his return to the track. However he often comes on for the run and may well be put spot on after today with the run skinning him fitter. He looks up against it in this handicap with improvement needed and its hard to draw any real improvement from the horse from a return from a break and hasn't go much in his favour today.

My rating - 138

23. Pak Jack - has good form over these fences and even though potentially a lesser light then he once was he is still only lightly raced and looks handicapped to go well again over these fences in this race with the run behind Iron man last summer standing out in amongst his runs at this track and the introduction of Robert Thornton is interesting on this horse. The ground could have dried out more but he has handled some give underfoot and is certain to stay this trip, if he gets round he is a fresh horse that shouldn't be a problem and has gone well at this level before and at 8yo he deserves his chance in this race after a good effort in the fox hunters 12 months ago.

My rating - 148

24. Dunbrody Miller - Won this race 12 months ago in true battling style under today's jockey, but has struggled since and needs to get into a rhythm and even though on a winning mark he looks to be on the down grade and needs to drop a further few pounds to have a chance and may need a easier race at this level given that it looks tougher this time around. The ground shouldn't be a problem but he is better on drier ground and with a exposed profile he is unlikely to turn his regression around under today's conditions and the experience of these fences can only amount to a certain amount and he is passed over this time with no recent form to draw on as he has regressed since the run 12 months ago.

My rating - N/A

25. Lankawi - Travelled well for a long way in a hot trial for the national and was found out at that level and has seemed to fall away since that run. However taking that form into account and another try at this trip could see him return to form and potentially improve on his current mark as he is potentially well handicapped again after failures at Cheltenham and the poor run last time not affecting his mark and could spring a surprise in this handicap with course likely to suit. However his chance would improve with a dry night and morning and the peter Bowen Yard have picked up form in recent weeks and the horse does well turned out quickly

My rating - 147

26. Randwick Roar - Has been in consistent form recently and looked on the upgrade with a convincing win over classic cappers who is a fair horse on his day and Gary Moore will be looking to pick up some more prize money with this horse today who is in the form of his life. That performance last time was a smashing effort and this trip looks tailored made for him. However at this level he needs improvement to overcome the rise in class with another 8lbs hiked up in the handicap meaning these types of races are what he needs to be contesting now. Not heavily raced he has improved for softer conditions then he encounters today and may just struggle against the better rivals on this ground.

My rating - 140

27. Theatre Knight - has been kept to limited displays since finishing 2nd in this race 12 months ago to keep his mark down and comes into this race a fresh horse which is ideal for him and his connections, but given the class of this race being potentially tougher then 12 months ago he is a bit up against it despite being lightly raced at 10yo. Has a lot in favour he has shown very little this season on the two runs he has taken and needs to bounce back to form, which this time of year usually brings the best out of him. Is board line handicapped to go well in it again this year and with the current form needing to improve on he isn't one of the leading players but respected with his form this time of year.

My rating - 141

28. Azueljo - looks likely to make up the numbers and shouldn't be taken too seriously in this handicap despite the graded form he achieved in France and even though this is more his level then a gold cup he is far away from showing any form that would win a top handicap such as this and shouldn't cause to much problems and if it does win then the form book will be made redundant.

My Rating - n/a

29. I Hear Thunder - Is almost looking like a betting proposition again after a long regressive streak and every time he looks like showing some form he falls out of contention and it is a long time ago since he ran any sort of race. Starting to look well handicapped on his oldest form, he is one of the most regressive horses in training and doesn't have enough in favour today to turn his form around in the conditions of this race and is best watched until he shapes with some promise.

My rating - N/A

30. Marked Man - has a ideal low weight with the claimer taking him to a low weight but his form has yet to really shape up to much and his form may have been over evaluated by the handicapper and even though he isn't far off winning again from around this mark a easier race should see him go well at the grand old age of 12. He has got a consistent profile on this type of ground but he has stamina issue and is likely to struggle to get home. The low weight should help him but classier horses should take his measure on the handicap.

My rating - 142

Tissue - Nacarat 5/1, Gwananko 7/1, Pak jack 9/1, Natal, In the High Grass, Lankawi 10/1, Palarshan 11/1, Kenzo III, 12/1, Black Hills, time To Sell 14/1, Too Forward, Eric's Charm, Dreux, Irish Raptor 16/1, Marked Man, Theatre Knight, Which Pocket, Dunbrody Miller 20/1, Roman Ark, Randwick Roar, Brother Na 22/1, Macs Flamingio, Crozan, Nice Try, Your'e Special 25/1, Mighty Matters 33/1, Oodachee, I Hear Thunder 50/1, Tommy Spar 66/1 , Azueljo 200/1.

Predicted finish - 1st Nacarat 2nd Gwananko 3rd Pak jack 4th In the High Grass.

Verdict  An Open handicap and quite a decent renewal even if many look in the grip of the handicapper or badly out of form but there is plenty in with chances in this race and Nacarat at 12-1 looks good value as he carries on his improvement to tackle level weight races in the near future and could hold up the form with Natal who also looks value at 12-1 in this event along with stable mate Gwananko at 8-1, while Pak Jack is a understandable short price with course form in his favour. The Irish will look to in the high grass that is best priced 16-1 while Lankawi is value at 40-1 for this event today.

Predicted finish - 1st Nacarat 2nd Gwananko 3rd Pak jack 4th In the High Grass.

Selection  2 pts e/w Nacarat @ 12-1 (BF12's+4.2)

Well Chief

Best of luck all