Run over two miles, offering £62,000 to the winner and featuring 20 runners, this race is going to be fast and furious but it’s precisely because of the nature of the race that we like the horse we do.
Plenty are in with chances on the book as you’d expect, but there is one standout who could prove today that he is a top-class chaser in the making for next season.
Here’s the shortlist:
Strictly speaking the second choice of the Paul Nicholls yard and a very big price, but Bryony Frost’s mount is certainly not without a chance by our reckoning despite running poorly when upped to Grade 1 level last time.
He won’t be wanting for experience this chap and in November he won a perfect trial for this race at Ascot in good style, albeit he is now 10lbs higher in the weights but these race conditions are ideal and he is a fair each-way contender.
We like this profile; plenty of runs this season to put him spot-on and yet 50 days off the track to ensure he’s fresh enough to do the business.
He’s a Grade 2 winner over hurdles (rated 148) and he has taken very well to chasing on this sort of ground, but it would have been nice to see him coming in on a lower mark than 147 in all truth. Still, Gordon Elliott’s runner remains a fascinating contender.
Paul Nicholls’ main hope and the likely favourite after landing three wins on the bounce, Harry Cobden’s mount has looked impressive in winning at Ascot, Musselburgh and Fakenham although there have to be just one or two doubts about him handling this track on the big occasion.
Despite having won again since, his standout effort for us was his second chase start when he landed the Scottish Champion Chase, a handicap at Musselburgh and a run that seemed to mark him out as one really going places.
Alan King’s runner really does stand out in this field. A good hurdler who ran well in the County Hurdle here last year, he has taken to fences brilliantly winning ever so impressively on his second start at Plumpton on very soft ground.
He was beaten last time, but Doncaster didn’t seem to be his kind of place and the small fields he’s been in haven’t allowed him to show his very best form either. Despite this, he’s been running to a level that for us puts him up at around the 150-mark and yet he’s in off 144, so considering the extra pace in this race is bound to bring about more improvement he does appear to be very well handicapped indeed.
Dan Skelton’s outsider is among the more experienced runners in the field having already had 25 chase starts, but he’s not out of this by any means.
Although comfortably beaten in this race last year he was quite well fancied for it and appears to be a better animal now, with his very easy handicap win at Wetherby the standout piece of recent form.
He has been hit with another ton of weight by the handicapper for running third in the Clarence House Chase however, so while a place is possible, he’ll need to dig out a monster performance to win.
Running consistently without winning an awful lot, Henry De Bromhead’s charge does seem to like it here and he was a decent sixth in the Arkle last year.
He has gone on from that too and while he was beaten in a handicap last time behind one of today’s rivals, he was hampered in his run that day and has only been put up 3lbs which keeps him in the hunt.
Naturally plenty of these show up very close together on adjusted ratings including the two Nicholls horses Capeland and the strongly fancied Greaneteen.
Either one could run a huge race and it would be no surprise to see one of the Ditcheat horses win, however the standout for us on the handicap having plenty in his favour in terms of race conditions is Alan King’s LISP and he is a relatively confident shout for this race.
Chosen Mate is more of an enigma, but clearly has ability and it’ll be interesting to see if money comes for him in the build-up to the race.