The 2½-mile Old Roan Chase has only been around since 2004 but has already been won by such leading lights as Kauto Star, Frodon and race favourite Monet’s Garden.
It can prove to be an important stepping stone to both the Cheltenham Festival and the Grand National meeting back here at Aintree in April and this, along with the small matter of £80,000 in prize money, makes this a huge race for trainers, jockeys and owners alike.
Here’s a synopsis of the chances of all six contenders for the latest renewal:
With not too many chasing miles on the clock and his best days ahead over the bigger obstacles, a horse such as this one has to have a chance in any handicap but he may just have bitten off more than he can chew this time given his record suggests he’ll get better after his first run of the season.
Trained by Dan Skelton and having won four of 10 chases, this eight-year-old definitely enters calculations with the likely racing conditions being perfect for him.
He finished his season in April in great form at the Scottish Grand National meeting, scoring by seven lengths at Ayr but that also means he has been raised significantly in the handicap and it so it could well be that his rate of improvement doesn’t quite match his heightened mark.
Any Nigel Twiston-Davies trained runner in a handicap like this has to be considered of course, but his ante-post price of around 20/1 is probably about right given that he has been comfortably beaten on his last thirteen starts in a row. He is slipping down the handicap and he’s not an old horse so all hope is not yet lost, but he’s no betting proposition on the known evidence.
A real stable star for Brian Ellison, a very capable trainer, and one that has certainly been underestimated and overpriced in the run-up to this event.
He’s been round the block a couple of times already and yet he retains further potential, his chasing handicap mark having hardly moved despite him showing signs that better performances are far from beyond him.
After a pipe-opener at Kelso on soft ground, he gets the course and conditions he had when running arguably his best race in the 2017 Maghull Novices’ Chase and so we should see a better quality spin today under Brian Hughes.
Last year’s winner of this race and one who did several favours for this very column, Frodon is a brilliant gelding who has done so much yet at 7, can pull out more.
The Cotswold Chase and Ryanair winner from last season gets on so well with jockey Bryony Frost and is ever so willing, but in a race of this nature it’s hard to believe he won’t find it difficult carrying top weight around given the talent in behind and so he’s just passed over this time, as much as we love him.
It was felt by many that Kalashnikov was the best novice chaser out there last season, but having been brought down in the Arkle he didn’t truly get the chance to prove it.
Better was to come around here in Grade 1 company over Grand National weekend when he put in a great display to beat La Bague Au Roi and if anything, he’s probably been underestimated by the handicapper who has given him a mark of 155.
On this flat track and on decent ground a clean round of jumping and a strong display are almost a given, so if his handicap mark is indeed a workable one he is a fair favourite for sure.
A disappointing turnout here numbers wise, likely owing to the fact that some very classy individuals are turning up and as such even in a handicap many trainers believe their runners will have a better chance elsewhere.
Despite this only being a six-runner event, we should get plenty of clues as regards future major festivals and so whatever happens make a note of how they all jump. For betting purposes on the day, Amy Murphy’s star KALSHNIKOV looks the one and he could put himself right at the head of the betting for the Ryanair Chase in March.
Forest Bihan is a big danger and Born Survivor is fancied ahead of Frodon for third given that he gives a stone away to the field.