NOGUCHI suffered a couple of narrow-margin defeats here last month. A 7lb claimer takes over the reins today and that should give Mike Murphy's charge the edge. He gets the vote ahead of Thecornishcowboy, who is upped in class, and the out-of-form pair Las Verglas Star and Kung Hei Fat Choy. Hilali ended last season in good form over hurdles but is 10lb higher than June's win on the Flat at Newbury and Monopoli will find this tougher than the plating race she won at Leicester in September.
Las Verglas Star (IRE) 6-1 (9-3) Towards rear, headway 4f out, ridden to challenge over 1f out, kept on, 3rd of 8, 2l behind Kay Gee Be (9-1) at Redcar 1m 2f hcp 0-95 (3) hvy in Nov.
Kung Hei Fat Choy (USA) 8-1 (8-9) Towards rear, ridden 3f out, some headway over 1f out, never dangerous, 5th of 9, 11l behind Docofthebay (8-10) at Southwell 7f hcp 0-95 (3) fbs.
Noguchi (IRE) 6-1 (9-3) In touch, headway over 2f out, led over 1f out, headed post, 2nd of 9, ns behind Reflect (8-13) at Kempton 1m 3f hcp 0-85 (4) pol in Jan.
Hilali (IRE) 11-2 (8-13) Held up in touch, headway centre 3f out, chased leaders 2f out, soon every chance, kept on same pace inside final furlong, 5th of 8, 2 1/2l behind My Lord (8-10) at Sandown 1m hcp 0-85 (4) sft in Jul.
Thecornishcowboy 5-4fav (9-12) Close up in 3rd, ridden over 1f out, no impression inside final furlong, last of 4, 1 3/4l behind Tingo In The Tale (9-2) at Lingfield 1m 4f 3yo hcp 0-70 (5) pol in Dec.
Askaud (IRE) 9-1 (9-0) Led 2f, tracked leaders, ridden and outpaced 3f out, driven and kept on under pressure final furlong, 4th of 8, 8l behind The Lock Master (8-10) at Southwell 1m hcp 0-85 (4) fbs.
Jewelled 5-1 (9-5) Held up towards rear and well off the pace, trying to close on inside rail when clipped heels stumbled badly and nearly unseated rider approaching final 2f, not recover, 5th of 8, 13l behind If I Were A Boy (8-7) at Windsor 1m 2f app hcp (5) gf in Aug.
Monopoli 10-3 (9-1) Mid-division, ridden over 4f out, headway over 3f out, soon close up, led over 1f out, kept on well, won at Leicester 1m 2f Classified Claiming Stakes (0-75) (3-4yo) (6) sft in Sep beating Tasfeya (9-7) by 2 1/2l, 7 ran.