Twelve hurdles around the New Course on soft ground in a handicap means this will be tough going, and with 23 rivals to beat whatever horse you back certainly has its work cut out to win this hugely competitive £100,000 handicap.
But, with one crucial form line to follow and not all the competitors appearing to want soft conditions, we’ve trimmed this field down to six hopefuls all of which should give a good account of themselves.
Dr Richard Newland has laid Aaron Lad out specifically for this race since his fine win over the course and distance back in December, though it must be remembered that his win that day was achieved on good ground and this will be a much stiffer test in the anticipated conditions.
He is still on a handy official mark however and is very much in the early stages of his career with undoubtedly more improvement to come, so with that factored in he stands a decent chance of making his mark today.
Henry De Bromhead’s seven-year-old has the form in the bag for this after his battling win in a qualifier for the race over at Leopardstown in December, but while he seemed to improve slightly next time out in February he was beaten into fourth place which just tempers enthusiasm a tad.
It seems on the face of it then that the handicapper has got to him, but it is worth remembering that the faster ground on his latest run may not have been to his liking and he may just be one of very few competitors enjoying the fight to the line in these conditions today so he has to make the shortlist.
Only a young horse with plenty more to give, Samburu Shujaa won a couple of races over the undulations of Chepstow and seems fairly well equipped to tackle this event, at least topographically speaking anyway, while French-bred horses appear to be enjoying things this year.
The progress he’s made in his career has been more steady than spectacular though and so a look at his profile overall would suggest winning this would be a slight surprise, but strictly on the numbers he has every chance of running into the money and cannot be discounted under champion jockey Richard Johnson who will get out of him everything there is to give.
Sire Du Berlais
Heavily punted for this after his eye-catching and staying-on performance in the Leopardstown qualifier behind Cuneo in December; Sire Du Berlais has had plenty of rest and recuperation since then and seems ready to go now.
He hasn’t won since his transfer from France in seven attempts though and so it seems a big ask to get his head in front in for the first time for Gordon Elliott in such a competitive race, though his handicap mark isn’t too prohibitive on the face of it and he should be in there fighting.
This horse has no fancy connections and has been on the go for a while, running five times this season already, but he took a good step forward last time at Doncaster in a Grade 2 event and is in here on merit.
He does have some form on soft ground too but it has to be said his best runs have been recently on better surfaces so underfoot conditions remain the chief concern.
Walk To Freedom
Walk To Freedom has top weight for a reason and these days heavy weight carriers are not ruled out of such handicaps. He was second to Cuneo in December, seemingly the key piece of form for this race, and was getting there all the time so this greater test will probably bring even more out of him.
The excellent Jessica Harrington trains and no doubt she’ll have him in perfect order for this race, Robbie Power also no doubt ensuring he’ll not be left wanting for help from the saddle meaning he ticks plenty of boxes.
The key form comes from Cuneo’s win at Leopardstown over the winter and while the winner himself could go on again now faced with softer ground, the one to take out of that race is probably WALK TO FREEDOM who rates a fair wager to get the better of his old rivals now. Sire Du Berlais may yet prove himself well handicapped but he’s not exactly prolific meaning his price is a little skinny.