There are eight runners set to go to post for this fairly useful handicap (16:35), run over a mile and a half for three-year-olds and featuring a couple of last-time-out winners who head the betting.
One of them is the Sir Mark Prescott-trained Brave Knight (94p), who tops the field on Timeform's weight-adjusted ratings. Up in trip after eight months off, Brave Knight took a big step forward when making a successful handicap debut at Windsor a couple of weeks ago, only winning by half a length but looking value for extra having left the impression he would have benefited from a stronger gallop. That display earned him the 'Horse In Focus' Flag and he is certainly one to keep on the right side from just a 5 lb higher mark. After all, he remains open to improvement after only four starts and couldn't be in better hands to progress through the ranks.
Fairbanks (92) has a similar profile having shown much-improved form to get off the mark on his handicap debut at Haydock last time, proving well suited by the step up in trip as he powered clear in a first-time visor to win by three and a quarter lengths. The manner of that victory suggests he was full value for a 6 lb rise in the weights and it's not out of the question that he could raise his game again now that he's found the winning groove. He certainly has plenty to recommend him on pedigree being by Nathaniel and a half-brother to the smart winner at up to a mile and a quarter, Berlin Tango.
Another likely improver in the line-up is Dasho Lennie (91p), who produced a career-best effort when finishing a close-up fourth on his first start in a handicap at Ascot last month. He was beaten less than a length at the line and looked unlucky not to finish closer still given how things developed, coming from further back than ideal in a race run at just a modest gallop. He should be able to build on that and is one to be interested in from an unchanged mark.
Cavern Club (89) proved at least as good as ever after five months off when finishing third at Newmarket last time, confirming the improvement he showed when making a winning handicap debut at Kempton in December. He was beaten a total of six lengths at Newmarket, though, and his antics under pressure (hung left and carried his head awkwardly) suggest he may not be entirely straightforward. Unsurprisingly, his connections have opted for more severe headgear today with a hood and blinkers replacing cheekpieces.
Top weight It's All About You (86) shaped as if needing the run after six months off when finishing third (beaten six lengths) on his handicap debut at Doncaster in April, while it's also worth pointing out that the Harry and Roger Charlton team is in better nick now than it was back then. Indeed, the Charltons have the 'Hot Trainer' Flag to denote that the yard is starting to hit top form, so an improved display from It's All About You can be expected now stepping up to a mile and a half.
Charlie Johnston, who also has the 'Hot Trainer' Flag, saddles Trojan Spirit (84), a well-held fifth when having his first start in a handicap at Wolverhampton in January. He has been given a good break since and is worth another try over a mile and a half having looked a decent middle-distance prospect when getting off the mark in a novice event at Kempton in December.
The field is completed by Ithaca's Arrow (87) and Wintercrack (82), both of whom are dropping markedly in grade having struggled in deeper waters last time. Ithaca's Arrow was never a factor when well held in the London Gold Cup at Newbury and should at least find this easier, while similar comments apply to Wintercrack, who beat only one home in the Cheshire Oaks. The balance of her form suggests a BHA mark of 76 is no gift on her handicap debut, though.
Timeform Analyst's Verdict:
Brave Knight was much improved when beating a subsequent winner on his handicap bow at Windsor 2 weeks ago and can defy a 5 lb rise with further progress on the cards. Fairbanks is another who took a big step forward when making a winning handicap debut at Haydock so is the obvious threat, while Dasho Lennie remains with potential having been left poorly placed at Ascot.
Timeform's weight-adjusted ratings:
94p Brave Knight
91p Dasho Lennie
89 Cavern Club
87 Ithaca's Arrow
86 It's All About You
84 Trojan Spirit
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