A quality race in which CELTIC SOVEREIGN is given the nod over a dangerous looking quartet of Spinning Bailiwick, Ektimaal, Arachnophobia and Confuchias. Mick Quinlan's son of Celtic Swing won nicely on his debut at Kempton, a victory that was probably unexpected given his 20/1 price tag. Next time up at Lingfield he ran well behind Divine Force, form that has since been franked. Even with a 6lb higher mark to contend with he is expected to run a big race. Spinning Bailiwick is consistent and arguably better than her run at Wolverhampton last time might suggest, Hellbender is now back to his last winning mark, whilst Dinner Date runs this track well but must get a good pace to chase over this trip if he is going to win. Ektimaal is consistent but high enough in the weights as a result, Arachnaphobia is interesting after a break given his course record, whilst Confuchias looks well-handicapped on a return to this track. L'Hirondelle and Dingaan are also course and distance winners, so in one of the most competitive handicaps of the year, it is with little confidence that we plump for Celtic Sovereign.
Confuchias (IRE) 10-11fav (9-3) Stumbled leaving stalls, soon pushed along towards rear, ridden from halfway, driven and headway over 1f out, stayed on to take 2nd well inside final furlong, never reached winner, 2nd of 10, nk behind Ponting (8-5) at Southwell 6f clm stks (6) fbs in Dec.
L'Hirondelle (IRE) 14-1 (8-10) Close up, every chance 2f out, weakened inside final furlong, 4th of 8, 3 1/2l behind Vainglory (8-8) at Kempton 1m hcp 0-95 (3) pol in Jan.
Dingaan (IRE) 11-1 (8-8) Raced centre, in touch, headway 3f out, pushed along over 2f out, hung left and weakened 2f out, 9th of 12, 14l behind Proponent (9-7) at Newmarket 1m hcp 0-95 (3) gf in Oct.
Ektimaal 5-1 (9-4) Led, ridden 2f out, headed inside final furlong, kept on, 2nd of 8, 1 1/4l behind Steel Stockholder (8-4) at Wolverhampton 7f hcp 0-80 (4) pol in Jan.
Arachnophobia (IRE) 7-2 (9-1) Tracked leader, challenged and every chance 2f out, soon ridden, kept on final furlong, always held, 2nd of 6, 1 1/2l behind Bay Knight (8-12) at Kempton 7f hcp 0-85 (4) pol in Oct.
Spinning Bailiwick 6-1 (9-1) Tracked leaders, ridden over 2f out, weakened final furlong, 8th of 9, 4l behind Sir Nod (8-6) at Wolverhampton 6f hcp 0-85 (4) pol.
Celtic Sovereign (IRE) 3-1 (9-2) Held up, good headway on inside well over 1f out, disputing lead and every chance inside final furlong, ran on but not pace of winner, 2nd of 10, 3/4l behind Divine Force (8-12) at Lingfield 7f hcp 0-75 (5) pol in Jan.
Hellbender (IRE) 5-1 (9-1) In rear, ridden over 2f out, kept on, never nearer, 5th of 8, 3 1/2l behind Steel Stockholder (8-4) at Wolverhampton 7f hcp 0-80 (4) pol in Jan.
Dinner Date 11-1 (8-10) Held up in touch, ridden 1f out, kept on inside final furlong, 3rd of 6, 1l behind Lord Fidelio (8-10) at Kempton 7f hcp 0-75 (5) pol in Jan.