20 runners, a marathon two-and-a-half mile trip and a pile of horses with top jumps form to be translated on the flat. This race is not the easiest to get to grips with!
That said, we can narrow the field to the below horses who all have a great chance of getting into the money, though it may be Godolphin rather than a top national hunt stable who are celebrating.
Coeur De Lion
Second this season in a big handicap at Newbury and the Chester Plate, both over 2m2f, there is no doubt he can mix it in big handicaps and will have no worries on the stamina front. Whether he’s well enough handicapped to take this is the big doubt.
Connections of this horse persisted for two years following injury and they could be rewarded eventually with a big win. Dannyday’s return to action in May was satisfactory enough, running fourth at Goodwood over 1m6f but with a few weeks to recover and a step up in trip we could be about to see him at his best.
Having come through the winter all-weather route, Dubawi Fifty may not be as fresh as some of these but there is no doubting his ability to mingle in these huge handicaps having finished fourth in the Chester Cup in May. His profile remains that of an improving horse and the booking of Silvestre De Sousa is a positive.
One of the Willie Mullins battalion here, she was well beaten when strong favourite to land a mares’ Listed hurdle last time up and may not appreciate the fast going. There is no way we can rule her out however in these conditions she does not look terribly well handicapped.
Right at the top of the market for Willie Mullins and an eye catching jockey booking of Mikael Barzalona; this mare holds every chance having carried on improving over hurdles during the spring.
That improvement can come at a cost though as she won’t be terribly fresh going into this race, however her four flat runs in France when trained by Nicolas Clement showed a horse reaching a very good level and so as long as fast ground is not a hindrance, her mark of 91 does not look enough on its own to stop her winning a race like this.
A big run is expected from another of the Mullins challengers with huge money having arrived for the five-year-old all weekend, the former John Gosden inmate looking reasonably treated on a mark of 92 assuming that improvement over obstacles can be maintained on the level.
On past flat form the fast going should be absolutely fine and there would be little apprehension about the marathon trip, so under Robert Winston this one should have plenty going for him and looks nailed on for a top-six finish.
Charlie Appleby is having a wonderful season training for Godolphin and he has a huge chance of winning this race – a far different affair to the Group 1 mile and middle-distance types he is now known for.
Very much unexposed, White Desert has risen quickly through the ranks having made his debut last summer and only started his third race in April at Wolverhampton but has since risen 15lbs in the handicap which by no means highlights his true ability just yet.
He won his race on the all-weather over 1m6f last time so, so easily and looks like being comfortably a 100+ horse, so his current mark of 92 is fairly lenient and he should love the extra distance and the quick ground. Top jock William Buick rides.
Of the huge Willie Mullins charge I’d say I’d want Meri Devie on my side a little more than Stratum, however they may both have it all to do to overhaul the potentially well handicapped WHITE DESERT who can further enhance the reputation of Godolphin’s blue eyed boy Charlie Appleby. With plenty in his favour his current odds look a little generous and at small stakes he looks the one to side with.