This year’s renewal is a typically competitive race, but a few have great profiles and some are well-handicapped, leading us to our six-runner shortlist:
Having been rerouted from his intended two-mile target after racing was cancelled on the Friday, Brelan D’As ran a blinder over this 2½-mile trip when second in the BetVictor Gold Cup last month and it seems he’s found his niche.
However, as good as he was that day and with potential further improvement taken into consideration, he has been raised another 5lbs for that effort which may just hold him back a tad against some well-treated types and so while he’s solid for place money, he’s just passed over for the win this time.
Good Man Pat
Alan King’s six-year-old, just 6 runs into his chase career, has attracted some support this week and it may well be that he appreciates this trip more than the three miles he ran over at Ascot in November when fourth in a handicap.
The fact is though that he while he makes the shortlist based on potential, he needs to find plenty to get involved and his record of one novice win in a three-runner race doesn’t scream Caspian Caviar Gold Cup winner.
There is still much debate regarding whether, after winning first up, horses do or do not go on to improve on their second run after a wind operation.
For what it’s worth we think this should be looked at case by case and each horse should simply be judged on their merits, which brings Keeper Hill into the equation after his fine Graduation Chase win at Haydock Park. He should be competitive, but this is a tough race on a very different track so again he could be one for place money.
We’ve long admired this horse and still believe that he’ll take off at some point and win a big one, so in probably being able to ignore his disappointing run last time on a track that didn’t suit in first time blinkers, he can be judged quite well on his third around here on heavy ground over two miles in October.
Assuming he’ll be better off on slightly better ground and over this trip, he rates as a real danger off this mark of 145 which looks some way short of where he’ll be come the end of the season.
Not That Fuisse
Dan Skelton’s six-year-old is a very inexperienced chaser having had only three runs to date, but he is exciting and a most intriguing contender here.
It was always felt that there was plenty of improvement to come from him after his first run, for which he was not favourite and duly ran just OK to finish second at Uttoxeter.
His latest turnout was a disappointment, but his middle effort was a fine runner-up effort behind Al Dancer around Cheltenham over two miles. After a decent race, he was no worse than around 4lbs behind his rival that day, a horse who’s now rated 151 and is expected to be better while this fellow should move up significantly in these conditions, so off 131 could well be judged as very well handicapped indeed.
Robin Des Foret
Any raider sent by Willie Mullins for a £130,000 race should not be discounted lightly, if at all, so in Robin Des Foret we definitely have a contender of sorts, although to be honest after twelve chases, three wins and not a ton of improvement, this one seems as though he’s handicapped just about right.
All of that is not to say that he can’t now get better and make his mark, though surely finishing in the first four or so would be seen as being an achievement.
This race, just as it should be, is full of fascinating contenders but so many are very close at the weights all things considered. While it wouldn’t be a surprise at all should a solid type such as Brelan D’As go on to win, so often these contests are won by wildcards who are well treated and so Knocknanuss enters calculations higher up.
Gary Moore’s 9yo has a big race in him, there’s no doubt about that, but young chaser NOT THAT FUISSE could have been given such a light weight versus his ability that his chances are too good to ignore and he gets the nod.