STEP BACK absolutely bolted up 12 months ago, with Rock The Kasbah 13 lengths back in second and Present Man a further 14 behind in third.
Those two are back again but they are only 7lb better off and, if Step Back is in anything like the same form, will surely be playing for place money again. Mark Bradstock’s star has yet to win this season but his tendency to jump right has hampered his efforts which have all been on left-hand tracks.
Last time he was pulled up in the Grand National but he did not have too hard a race and, back at the scene of his greatest triumph, he can regain the winning thread.
The handicapper has certainly given him every chance, running off just 10lb higher than last year. His jumping that day was superb and, if he gets into the same groove, he will be hard to catch, let alone pass.
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Beware the Bear and Yala Enki look to have plenty of weight and Adrien du Pont and Captain Chaos have to prove their stamina. But Joe Farrell, last year’s Scottish National winner, and progressive novice Talkischeap have each-way claims along with Give Me A Copper and Ballydine.
YOUNEVERCALL would be better named Youneverrace as his appearances are few and far between.
But when Kim Bailey’s eight-year-old recovers from his various setbacks and makes it to the racecourse he is a very useful hurdler.
He can prove that point in the 4.10. Needless to say he runs well fresh so the 126-day absence is not a worry – if anything it is a plus.
He lagged in on his reappearance at Kempton in November in a decent handicap over today’s trip, a reproduction of that effort will make him hard to beat.
At Haydock WAHASH has a great chance in the 2.05, a handicap over seven furlongs.
He looked set to land a quality mile event at Bath on Good Friday but was just collared close home. Off the same mark he has plenty in his favour here.
Most of the main dangers – Burnt Sugar, Shady McCoy, Cold Stare, Lord Oberon and last year’s winner Safe Voyage – lack a recent run. Let’s hope Richard Hannon’s five-year-old does not make a Wa-hash of the opportunity!
The big race at Leicester is the Listed King Richard III Stakes (2.45) where HEY GAMAN can reign supreme.
He has Group 1 form, goes well fresh and trainer James Tate has his string in great form.
He stays further and that stamina could be crucial as the likes of Commonwealth Cup winner Eqtidaar and Laugh A Minute have to prove they can transfer their 6f form to this longer trip.
Tate has booked some chap called Dettori for the ride which has to be encouraging. Donjuan Triumphant has plenty to do with his 3lb penalty whilst Cardsharp and Larchmont Lad need to find improvement but seem pretty exposed.
I spy an eyecatcher…
At Epsom on Wednesday the market for the novice event over a mile was dominated by Newmarket raiders trained by William Haggas and John Gosden.
So when LE DON DE VIE, having attempted to make all, was challenged by Gosden’s Casanova entering the last two furlongs, he might have been expected to wilt. Not so.
He battled on gamely for a gritty success.
Trainer Andrew Balding immediately stated he would return for a handicap at the Derby meeting and, whatever his fate then, with his qualities he will surely win more races this year.
The 1m2f novice race for three-year-olds (5.00) is a race that Sir Michael Stoute always targets, he obviously believes Leicester gives promising middle-distance colts a good education.
Whatever he runs usually end up as good handicappers or better and last season he took it with the very useful Mekong.
So LAAFY has to be of interest on his reappearance.
He shaped well on his second start, here, last October when running on to be second over a mile in a race that has worked out well.
There is almost certainly much more to come and, in receipt of 7lb from likely favourite Succellus, Stoute could be the one having the last Laaf!