Bells ‘N’ Banjos
He shaped really well for me when fifth at Cheltenham in October, but he clearly didn’t show as much when pulled up in the Edinburgh National last time. I don’t think the track suited him there, and one or two of ours weren’t firing at the time, too. The handicapper has dropped him a very fair 3lb for that Musselburgh run, so I anticipate a much better run from him.
Obviously, you can ignore her run at Taunton last time, where the saddle slipped early on and I did as best as I could thereafter. She did remarkably well to finish as close as she did there, and she may have actually have won had things gone more smoothly over the last two flights. Anyway, she is much better judged on her earlier efforts, which included a good fourth to Woolstone One at Doncaster, where she wasn’t ideally suited by the way the race panned out and finished off her race well. She was a smart bumper mare and handles testing conditions well, so I am expecting a big run off what I think is a fair mark of 119, albeit this is clearly a very competitive race.
We haven’t seen him since he won at Market Rasen in November and he carries an ugly 4lb penalty for that victory here. But he comes here in good order, and he could well be up to giving the weight away. But, against that, he is up against unknown quantities from top stables, and I suppose the Market Rasen form is mixed. He is a horse we rate, though, and this has been the long-term plan for him.
He gave me a great spin for a long way in the Grand Sefton last time, and certainly ran better than his beaten distance would suggest there. He travelled and jumped really well before getting tired late on, in what was very testing ground. The handicapper has dropped him 2lb for that run and he has won around here, and were it better ground on Saturday then I would be pretty confident about his chances. But he has won on soft ground, and if he handles the conditions – and it looks like it is drying – then I would say he is certainly in there with a big shout. He goes well fresh, so the break since Aintree in December is another plus, and I think he has the pace for this trip, especially in this ground.