The positive to take from those defeats is a rating of 127 which doesn’t appear punitive for a horse that graduated to a rating in the 90s on the level this summer. There could be better to come now he tackles a handicap hurdle for the first time with a stiff two miles on easy ground appearing an ideal test.
The prospect of heavy overnight rain would dent confidence in the five-year-old, but some rain may ensure the ground doesn’t become tacky and, although the selection was beaten on soft ground at Haydock, I think that owed more to inexperience and a slowly-run race. Last time out at Ascot, Capitaine, cleverly ridden by Sam Twiston-Davies, displayed the benefit of that outing to make the running and see off a host of promising and exciting rivals in Grade 2 company.
Finian's Oscar has become one of the most hyped horses in National Hunt racing, but it is hardly a surprise given the domination of his stable this year and, with the forecast rain likely to play to his strengths, he could well usurp Capitaine as market leader come flag fall. However, Capitaine has the form in the book and, if he copes with conditions, can add his name to the likes of Noland, Silverburn and Breedsbreeze who have won this race for the Ditcheat operation in the last decade.
Above Board will be popular for the Class 3 handicap hurdle following his smooth Carlisle success, but in many ways the pacey TRANS EXPRESS (Wincanton, 3.15) was equally impressive at Exeter in beating Rocklander and, with that rival again running well at Cheltenham since, the form looks very solid.
GREYED A (Chesptow, nap, 4.00) has made eye-catching progression this season and the six-year-old is fancied to lead home a big field in the Chepstow finale on Sunday. Inexperience cost the ex-Irish horse victory on his Sedgefield handicap bow but no problems next time as Daryl Jacob asserted after the selection was headed two out. The response was immediate and Greyed A cruised to a debut win, the field nicely strung out behind.
He can prove better than this level.
PRIME VENTURE (Chepstow, nb, 1.30) cost punters dearly when his jumping became ragged late on at Lingfield in atrocious ground back in November. The forecast for the Welsh venue looks promising and on better going, up in trip he can resume winning ways.
Read Sam Turner's tips every day in the Daily Mail or at www.dailymail.co.uk/racing