'We'll be disappointed if he doesn't go close' - Gary Moore has big hopes
Thursday: 2.17 Lingfield
Read Kevin Blake On attheraces.com Novices' Handicap Chase | 2m4f | 4yo+ | Sky
You have to go back to 2013 to find the last time Paul Nicholls ran a horse over fences at Lingfield. The 11-time champion trainer has shunned chases at the Surrey track since then, but will end his prolonged absence when Confirmation Bias takes his chance in this 2m4f contest.
The lightly raced six-year-old, who has been off the track for 221 days, is Nicholls' sole runner on the card and will be partnered by Bryony Frost, who has a 29 per cent strike-rate (52-179, +£66.88 to £1 level stake) when riding chasers for the Ditcheat trainer.
Confirmation Bias, who cost €150,000, perhaps hasn't yet delivered on the promise he showed on debut when beating subsequent three-time winner Sizeable Sam, and was described as being better around right-handed tracks, which has to be a concern.
Nicholls is second to Dan Skelton in the early stages of the trainers' title race and his former assistant is represented here by three-race maiden Seven No Trumps, who wears a tongue-tie on his handicap debut. An opening mark of 115 seems a little harsh on what he's achieved to date.
Four-race maiden Star Academy is better treated off 119 for trainer Venetia Williams, while the class-dropping Get Your Own may be a longer-term project.
Backers of Dorking Lad will hope that first-time blinkers eke out some improvement. His sole success came in a weak eight-runner maiden hurdle at Newton Abbot in the spring.
Animal brings course-and-distance form to the table after a creditable runner-up here 16 days ago and a similar effort would give him a chance, although his inclination to jump left-handed quells the enthusiasm.
Race analysis by Tom Collins
What they say
Chris Gordon, trainer of Blame The Game
He got stuck in the mud first time back and was pulled up, but hopefully this better ground will suit him better.
Colin Tizzard, trainer of Buckhorn George
He had a novicey fall at Exeter recently and the plan would be for a clear round this time. He's a lovely chasing type and, if he jumps, I expect him to be thereabouts.
Robert Walford, trainer of Foxboro
It's a hot race and, like a lot of ours, he'll probably improve for his first start back.
Paul Nicholls, trainer of Confirmation Bias
We've always thought he would be a better chaser than a hurdler now he's grown up. He should run very well.
Philip Hobbs, trainer of Honorary Colonel
He's schooled nicely over fences at home but will probably be more effective on softer ground. That said, this looks a nice starting point.
Gary Moore, trainer of Dorking Lad
The horse he finished second to last time came out and bolted up by 20 lengths, so we'll be disappointed if he doesn't go close. He's 3lb well in on the ratings as he's due to go up by that amount.
Reporting by David Milnes
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