Only four runners are set to go to post for this mares' handicap chase (15:15), but it still has a competitive look to it with a case to be made for each of the quartet.
The Stuart Coltherd-trained Maid O'Malley (138) tops the field on Timeform's weight-adjusted ratings as she tries to repeat her win in this race 12 months ago. That was a fairly useful perfomance to defy a BHA mark of 114 with plenty in hand, making virtually all to win by five and a half lengths, and she has taken her form up another notch having been highly tried in the interim, notably faring best of the rest behind the smart Zambella in a listed mares' event at this course in November.
Although below form when finishing a well-held fourth in a similar contest at Doncaster last time, Maid O'Malley is back down in grade today and even an 11 lb higher mark than last year might not be enough to prevent her from going back-to-back judged on the pick of her efforts since.
La Renommee (137) has a rather different profile given that this will be just her second race over fences, but she made a promising start to her chasing career when filling the runner-up spot in a mares' handicap chase at Wetherby 11 days ago, keeping on well to pass the post just a length and a quarter behind the winner. She is only 2 lb higher in the weights today and entitled to progress with that experience under her belt, so another big run could be on the cards.
Lilith (136), on the other hand, needs to bounce back from a couple of disappointing efforts so far this season, but she has dropped to a workable mark if rediscovering the form she showed when winning a valuable mares' handicap chase at the Punchestown Festival in April. She usually races on or up with the pace and that will at least ensure that Maid O'Malley doesn't have things all her own way at the head of affairs.
The field is completed by Haute Estime (132), who was Grade 1-placed as a novice hurdler last season but has struggled for form since finishing a good second on her first start over fences in a novices' limited handicap chase at Kelso in October. Still, she is now 4 lb lower in the weights than when beaten only five and a half lengths at Kelso, so it's not out of the question that she too could get involved if arriving here on a going day for Lucinda Russell, who has the 'Hot Trainer' Flag to denote that her yard is in top form.
Timeform Analyst's Verdict:
Maid O'Malley did the job well in this race last year, and while she's 11 lb higher this time round and may not be gifted an easy lead with Lilith in opposition, the Stuart Coltherd-trained mare should nevertheless prove a tough nut to crack. With both Haute Estime and Lilith both needing to bounce back, La Renommee, who made an encouraging start over fences at Wetherby, is likely to emerge as the main danger.
Timeform's weight-adjusted ratings:
138 Maid O'Malley
137 La Renommee
132 Haute Estime
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