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Darran

Hunter Chases - 4.10 Kelso and 4.30 Leicester

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Over a month of the Hunter Chase season gone and we have only had 4 races which is crazy really. Hopefully the flu has been contained and the weather will play ball for the rest of the season. Having said that of course the flu is still playing apart and we are left with just 4 runners apiece in the two races on Thursday.

I will start at Kelso where Shantou Flyer is bidding to try and get one of his qualifying runs in for Cheltenham. Just to remind you he has to finish 1st or 2nd in two Hunter Chases by a week on Sunday. I am sure they thought he would be qualified by now and they might be regretting the decision not to run at Taunton where he would have likely finished 2nd. I thought his Warwick run was really disappointing though. It was nowhere near the levels he had shown last season and I don't even think you can say he might have needed the run. It goes without saying if he shows the form of last season then he will win this, but at long odds on I am happy to take him on. There has to be a bit of a question mark on the ground as well. He has won on good ground in the past, but not for sometime and it might just be that he needs to get his toe in nowadays.

Mr Mercurial has been a really solid Hunter Chaser for a few seasons now and arguably he was as good as ever last season as he landed a hat-trick of wins including a really good one at Cheltenham. His new owner/trainer/jockey paid £36k for him at the sales and it was probably enough money for a horse who is now 11. What concerns me more though is the fact he is a horse who has taken some knowing the past and he hasn't always been the easiest of rides. Having said that his form gives him a leading chance.

Sir Jack Yeats won this race last year and it was already his 3rd Hunter Chase run of the season although their hand was forced as they wanted to qualify him for Cheltenham. I thought he ran respectably enough at Cheltenham and Aintree and his 3 previous runs in Hunter Chases look's decent.

Purcell's Bridge's form doesn't look good enough although he did post a good time when winning on pointing debut last month, but his handicap form prior isn't good enough to win this.

Shantou Flyer might well win this, but I didn't like his Warwick run and he comes up against 2 useful performers here who I would rate higher than all the horses who finished in front of him that day bar the winner. If Mr Mercurial's new jockey can get him to put his best foot forward he has a strong chance and Sir Jack Yeats also has an obvious chance with the best jockey in the race. I think it is worth backing them both to small stakes.

Sir Jack Yeats 0.5pts @ 4/1 with Unibet

Mr Mercurial 0.5pts @ 4/1 with Unibet

As the betting suggests the Leicester race should be between Just Cause and Ascockastar. The latter was a surprise 2nd at Cheltenham to Barel Of Laughs and then in the Stratford Foxhunter when 2nd to Chosen Dream. The problem is those two runs were way above the form he had shown previously. I do think the Stratford form is suspect given the heavily watered ground, but you have to say he ran really well in both and he certainly has the best Hunter Chase form in this race.

Just Cause's Hunter Chase form is a fair way below what Ascokastar has shown. He was well beaten at Catterick last March and he ought to have won at Fontwell but his owner/jockey was probably to blame for him not wining. I'm not sure of the reason why, but Tim isn't riding his horses this season so that is certainly a plus for the horses chances. He ended last season with an easy win at Dingley. This year he has run at Cottenham twice. He was picked up by Now Ben in the first which is good form and every chance he needed that as he won later in the month beating Warwick 2nd Mr Mix by a neck.

The betting has gone for Just Cause, but I don't think there is much between the two of them at all and Asockastar looks the value now. He is likely to make the running and that could be beneficial in a small field. He won first time last season so you would hope that he would be fit enough here even though his main rival has had two starts so might have the advantage in fitness. For now I am prepared to take those 2 2nds at face value and his trainer is aiming him at Cheltenham next month. Like I say I don't think there is a great deal between them so will take Asockastar at the prices.

Asockastar 1pt @ 11/8 with Betfair and Paddy Power

Edited by Darran

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