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Test

Holywell set to take Grade 1 Mildmay

By James Boyle

Six runners are set to go to post for the Grade 1 Mildmay Novices’ Chase at Aintree on Friday and despite the lack of a big field, it’s a fairly interesting race either way. The RSA winner, O’Faolains Boy, will be lining up, as will a couple of others who didn’t complete in that race having come to grief at the same fence when both were still moving all right. The JLT fifth, Wonderful Charm, runs for Paul Nicholls and so does Just A Par, who previously looked a novice to be reckoned with when taking a Newbury Grade 2 in November.

All of them, to a point, are worthy of a lot of respect but it’s Holywell that gets the nod at a best-priced 10/3. Jonjo O’Neill’s charge came to life in first-time blinkers at the 2013 festival when tanking through, and winning, the Pertemps Final over hurdles off a mark of 140. Afterwards, he finished second to Solwhit at this meeting (with blinkers retained) in the Grade 1 Liverpool Hurdle and that helps to show just what he’s capable of when the sun is on his back; it’s his time of year.

It was clear that Cheltenham was Holywell’s main aim again this season, with cheekpieces being entrusted to get the best out of him for his first five chase outings. To be fair to the horse, he managed to win twice in January and February, but he looked far from a natural in this code on many occasions and didn’t come alive, once again, until the blinkers went on for the 3-mile handicap on day one of the festival.

There, he made light enough work of an opening mark of 145 (harsh based on what he had achieved over fences) by scoring a shade handily after travelling powerfully throughout. Whilst that was just a handicap and this a Grade 1, the figure he ran to is deemed 1lb superior than what O’Faolains Boy achieved by winning the RSA and when Holywell has got his trusty blinkers on his head, he’s a formidable opponent who is more than capable of taking the spoils in a race like this.

I doubt that those Cheltenham exertions will have taken an ocean out of him either (they may with the others) and with the blinkers retained, you can be sure that he’ll be on the premises barring disaster. It’s not an overly brilliant Grade 1 either, despite being an interesting race, and personally, I have O’Neill horse heading the market in my book. The sharper track won’t bother him – if anything it can be seen as a plus given how well he travels – and he’s going to be tough to beat with a clear round of fencing.

Selection:

2:30 Aintree – Holywell @ 10/3


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