mid-division, towards rear and struggling 4 out, still plenty to do after next, soon ridden, headway under pressure after last, finished well to take 2nd near finish, not quite reach winner
Plenty to ponder in a tricky opener. Derek O’Connor gave What Happens Now a typically-accomplished ride to beat Indian Castle and Regal Flow here last month but Donald McCain’s stayer has been hit with an 8lb rise and both the second and third will strip fitter today. Jamie Codd has also made the trip over the Irish Sea to ride Duelling Banjos and Kim Bailey’s charge has every chance of going one better than at Exeter. Pickamix could be interesting stepping out of novice company while Sugar Baron has the class to go close, despite a big weight. SOLSTICE SON is also near the top of the handicap but won here last year and could get a few of these on the stretch if Will Biddick can get him into a rhythm early on. Gentleman Jon and Phil’s Magic add to the interest along with last year’s winner What A Moment.
Sugar Baron (IRE) 8-1 (10-8) Prominent, effort 2 out, every chance when not fluent last, soon ridden, no extra closing stages, 7th of 13, 2 1/4l behind Henllan Harri (10-0) at Sandown 3m 5f hcp (1) gd in Apr.
Tintern Theatre (IRE) 13-2 (11-3) Tracked leaders, mistake 6th and 8th, ridden when lost place after 3 out, behind when fell next, at Cheltenham 2m 4f (2) gd in Oct.
Solstice Son 8-1 (11-8) Led, clear 10th, still 6 lengths ahead 2 out, driven flat, headed towards finish, 2nd of 10, 1l behind In The Rough (11-2) at Uttoxeter 3m hcp (3) gs in May.
Phil's Magic (IRE) 14-1 (10-5) Chased leader, 9th at 7th, progress to 7th at 11th, improved to 4th 2 out, no impression on leaders, ridden and headway to moderate 3rd run-in, kept on, no threat, 3rd of 16, 18l behind Total Recall (10-5) at Limerick 3m hcp sft in Oct.
What A Moment (IRE) 100-1 (11-6) Held up in rear, headway approaching 20th, every chance 3 out, soon lost place and eased, pulled up before 2 out, at Cheltenham 4m (1) gs in Mar.
Dueling Banjos 11-2 (11-12) Tracked leaders, led 4th, mistake 9th, headed 2 out, kept on same pace and held run-in, 2nd of 16, 4l behind Gingili (11-7) at Exeter 3m hcp (3) gs in Oct.
What Happens Now (IRE) 8-1 (11-10) Led 2nd to 7th, remained in touch, went 2nd 4 out, led again before 2 out, clear last, ridden out, comfortably, won at Cheltenham 3m 1f hcp (3) gd in Oct beating Indian Castle (12-1) by 9l, 17 ran.
Mont Royale 16-1 (11-6) Towards rear, blundered 10th, headway chasing leaders after 15th, 3rd 3 out, one pace and well held when lost 3rd last, 4th of 13, 17 3/4l behind Braqueur D'or (11-4) at Ludlow 3m hcp (3) gf in Oct.
Pickamix 3-1jfav (11-1) Chased leaders, every chance after 3 out, not fluent last, no extra closing stages, 2nd of 9, 2 1/2l behind Remind Me Later (10-4) at Worcester 2m 7f hcp (3) gd in Oct.
Lamb Or Cod (IRE) 25-1 (10-2) Mid-division, lost place and towards rear when fell 13th, at Cheltenham 3m 1f hcp (2) gd in Oct.
Indian Castle (IRE) 9-2 (12-1) In touch, outpaced before 3 out, soon ridden, stayed on under pressure to take 2nd flat, no chance with winner, 2nd of 17, 9l behind What Happens Now (11-10) at Cheltenham 3m 1f hcp (3) gd in Oct.
Angus Milan (IRE) 12-1 (11-5) Mid-division on outer, jumped left 9th, 5th 5 out, pushed along and no impression after 3 out, jumped left next, no extra, weakened, 8th of 11, dist behind Poormans Hill (10-8) at Down Royal 3m hcp sft in Nov.
Gentleman Jon 11-4jfav (10-11) Chased leader, led after 4th, headed 3 out, rallied after next, kept on same pace, 3rd of 10, 6 1/4l behind Mr Mix (11-12) at Wincanton 3m 3f hcp (3) gd in Oct.
Regal Flow 16-1 (11-12) Tracked leaders, ridden after 3 out, stayed on to dispute 2nd before last, kept on same pace, no chance with winner, 3rd of 17, 9 1/2l behind What Happens Now (11-10) at Cheltenham 3m 1f hcp (3) gd in Oct.
As De Pique (IRE) 20-1 (11-11) Chased leaders, slight mistake 3rd, 3rd halfway, fell 6 out, at Punchestown 2m 7f hcp Yielding - Soft in Oct.