Things are tight this year in the £75,000 Peter Marsh Chase, there not being much between at least eight of these 10 runners on our private ratings.
Brian Ellison’s Definitly Red only just misses out on our six-horse shortlist but is certainly not out of it, showing just how difficult a job it has been to separate these runners. That said, the selection is backed with some confidence with plenty going in his favour. Here’s a synopsis of our leading contenders:
Harry Fry’s 9-year-old has been extremely consistent, winning four of his 8 chase races to date and that alone undoubtedly hands him place claims given that he’s won at Class 2 level twice and been runner-up recently in a Listed handicap.
The downside to this consistency is that, despite still being young enough, he hasn’t really shown a lot of improvement since going over fences in 2017 and so coming into this race on his highest ever handicap mark doesn’t read well for win purposes.
Champers On Ice
The last of the David Pipe 10-year-old’s four chase starts was back in March 2017 and on that score he comes into this as a little bit of an enigma.
Assuming his form over the larger obstacles remains fairly similar or even a little better than his hurdling form, then he’d be in with some sort of a chance here at a pretty nice price however off 141 we can’t quite progress him to the genuinely ‘well-handicapped’ category without evidence.
Sandy Thomson has been in tremendous form of late with only one of his last 10 runners at the time of writing finishing outside of the first three (the other was 4th), and he brings this 9-year-old gelding down from his yard near Coldstream in what we believe to be excellent nick.
A winner in December at Newcastle over two-and-a-half miles, Geronimo stayed on nicely that day up the hill and it seems he really wants something like this 3¼-mile trip so given the form of his yard a big run has to be anticipated.
He likes soft to heavy going, has won over 3m3f and is improving, the only doubt about him being his proliferating handicap mark which could just stop him in his tracks at some point.
From just five chase runs the Anthony Honeyball-trained mare has won twice, finished second twice and fell when leading at the last so it’s fair to say she’d done precious little wrong to date.
Much like Acting Lass however, her form while consistent doesn’t seem to be really reaching new levels each time and so in such a high grade and competitive affair, expecting her to win this off a new career high handicap mark is slightly beyond us.
With form figures of 349-44 you’d be forgiven for labelling this horse as no better than a reasonable each-way shout, but a closer look at the form and profile of Evan Williams’ gelding reveals him to be a standout contender for the £42,000 first prize here.
His close form on heavy ground with Ramses De Teillee (now rated 151) reads well and we’d be well served to remember that this horse has probably been pushed a tad too far at times.
His fourth in the Midlands National last year was solid but not his best run, while his third behind the same horse in the Welsh Grand National (Potters Corner) a few weeks ago represented a good amount of improvement but was probably still a fair way short of his best owing to the trip.
Back over this distance we should see a much better showing from Prime Venture and it will be hard to keep him out of the first three at least off this handicap mark of 136.
Sue Smith’s 10-year-old deserves a mention after all he’s achieved, including a return to form when finishing third around this track last time out in December.
That course and distance performance should have put him spot-on for this, with his age and mileage perhaps being the only thing now keeping him back off a mark still the same as when last winning in November 2018.
A number in with chances then, but while Geronimo could keep improving and Champers On Ice could be a danger, the money goes on PRIME VENTURE who is the most interesting runner in the field and could prove to be well handicapped coming back to this sort of distance.