MY MATE MAL has profited from some jockeys giving him an easy lead of late but he still looks progressive and is taken to see off Lava Steps and Bosamcliff. Brian Ellison's gelding is a relentless galloper and his two recent selling wins have been well earned. He has a higher mark to contend with now back in handicap grade but he has improved markedly for the step up in trip at this track and is fancied to complete his hat-trick. Lava Steps has been off since finishing fourth to Dan Buoy here at the start of the year but the break may have done him good and he is another horse who is proven at the track and his mark of 68 looks fair enough. Vertigo On Course seemed to appreciate the step up in trip last time out at Wolverhampton, Mister Fizzbomb has been in fair enough form over hurdles and a mark of 64 looks manageable, whilst Holden Eagle is still a maiden but has been given a chance by the handicapper. The biggest danger however may be recent Hereford hurdles winner Bosamcliff. She is an adaptable mare and her two runs behind Charging Indian here earlier in the year read well in the context of this race. Not straightforward, but My Mate Mal can complete a hat-trick of front-running victories.
Bosamcliff (IRE) 11-2 (9-0) In touch, improved to 3rd 4f out, ridden to chase winner over 1f out, kept on same pace final furlong, 2nd of 6, 1 1/4l behind Charging Indian (9-7) at Southwell 1m 3f hacp 0-70 (5) fbs.
Holden Eagle 11-4 (9-7) Tracked leaders, led 3f out, headed over 1f out, weakened inside final furlong, 5th of 10, 8l behind Count Of Tuscany (9-3) at Kempton 1m 4f mdn auc stks (5) pol in Oct.
My Mate Mal 9-4fav (9-4) Made all, drven clear over 3f out, ridden out, won at Southwell 1m 4f sell stks (6) fbs beating Jazrawy (8-10) by 3l, 6 ran.
Lava Steps (USA) 5-4fav (9-5) Took keen hold, tracked winner to 8f out, remained handy until weakened over 1f out, 4th of 6, 4l behind Dan Buoy (8-11) at Southwell 1m 4f app hcp (0-70) (4yo+) (5) fbs in Jan.
Mister Fizzbomb (IRE) 18-1 (9-6) Dwelt, chased winner after 2f out until 2f out, ridden and weakened, 5th of 7, 12l behind Valid Point (9-8) at Pontefract 1m 2f hcp 0-75 (5) gf in Sep.
Vertigo On Course (IRE) 6-1 (8-5) Chased leaders, slightly lost place 4f out, headway over 1f out, stayed on, 4th of 8, 1 1/2l behind Houston Dynimo (9-1) at Wolverhampton 1m 4f hcp 0-75 (5) pol.