London – Elegant Escape can rediscover the winning trail with victory in the Graduation Chase at Exeter on Sunday.
Colin Tizzard’s charge mixed it with the big boys without cutting much ice as a novice hurdler last season, but has already surpassed those efforts since having his attentions turned to the larger obstacles.
He might have managed just one win from his first four starts over fences, but he has finished second to three seriously smart operators in Mia’s Storm, Ballyoptic and Black Corton.
Elegant Escape actually claimed Black Corton’s scalp in a Grade Two at Newbury on his penultimate start and there was not much wrong with his effort despite the placings being reversed in the Kauto Star Novices’ Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day.
He has less on his plate in this 4800m contest and another win should set up him perfectly for a tilt at the RSA Chase at next month’s Cheltenham Festival.
It could be a profitable afternoon for the Tizzard team, with Gentleman Jon a major player in the Champions League Betting At 188Bet Veterans’ Handicap Chase.
The son of Beat All ran his best race for some time when finishing a close-up third on his latest appearance at Newbury in December and the form has been very well advertised since with the winner, Gold Present, following up in a Listed contest at Ascot and the runner-up, Warriors Tale, going down narrowly in the Sky Bet Chase at Doncaster.
Gentleman Jon has only recently qualified for the veterans’ series after turning 10 on January 1 and should find life a little easier against his fellow elders.
He is not badly handicapped on the best of his form.
Grand Morning is an obvious contender for the totequadpot Novices’ Hurdle at Ayr.
The son of Midnight Legend built on the promise of his debut third at Hexham when carrying the colours of JP McManus to a determined victory in testing ground over this course and distance a month ago, despite showing signs of his inexperience.
He is set to encounter demanding conditions once more, but that should not be a major issue and he might not need to improve too much to follow up.
The Delray Munky is another course winner returning to the track in the totepoolliveinfo.com Mares’ Handicap Hurdle.
The six-year-old’s first four efforts of the season were fairly uninspiring, but she appeared completely rejuvenated following the application of cheek pieces here less than a fortnight ago, coming home with her head in her chest and 15 lengths clear of her nearest rival.
The handicapper has unsurprisingly had his say, bumping her up 7kg in the weights, but she nevertheless remains of significant interest on ground that clearly suits.
Another Barney was seriously impressive on his rules debut at Naas last month and has earned his step up to Listed class in the I.N.H. Stallion Owners EBF Novice Hurdle at Punchestown.
Childrens List is of definite interest on his second run of the season for Willie Mullins in the BoyleSports Grand National Trial. – Press Association
Suggested bets (UK starting times):
AYR: 1.50 Just Don’t Ask, 2.20 Divine Spear, 2.55 Grand Morning, 3.25 Progress Drive, 4.00 The Delray Munky, 4.30 Smuggler’s Stash, 5.00 Rivabodiva.
EXETER: 2.00 Samburu Shujaa, 2.30 Djingle, 3.05 Present Times, 3.35 Gentleman Jon, 4.10 ELEGANT ESCAPE (NAP), 4.40 Le Rocher, 5.10 Time To Move On.
PUNCHESTOWN: 1.40 Cantlow, 2.10 High Sparrow, 2.40 Another Barney, 3.15 Swingbridge 3.45 Gilgamboa, 4.20 Childrens List, 4.50 Castle North.
DOUBLE: Elegant Escape and Gentleman Jon