We have a super competitive renewal of this two-mile chase and while this distance around Aintree normally means the speedier types get involved, we do have pretty soft underfoot conditions just as we did last year and so some ability to see the race out is also needed.
With all known evidence taken into consideration we’ve narrowed this field down to six quality contenders, all of whom have different qualities and there are a couple of potentially smart value plays in the race.
Easily the biggest price of our chosen six, Jamie Snowden’s seven-year-old gelding comes into this underrated despite a win at Hereford recently following a 502-day break, his third win in five chase races in fact.
Assuming the bounce factor doesn’t come into play he is young enough and with the required low mileage to carry on up the ranks making him likely to put up a career best performance in this, just as long as he handles the bigger field and quicker pace. Aidan Coleman rides.
Title hopeful Paul Nicholls keeps his team in terrific form and in Brelan D’As he has a horse with a great profile for this race; experienced enough at eight years of age and with 16 rules races under his belt but with just nine chases recorded he no doubt has plenty more to give.
Some of his best form has come on very soft ground and his easy win around Haydock in December over this trip suggests things could be ideal for him here, especially as he’s a better chaser now.
Bryony Frost has always got a good tune out of him but Barry Geraghty taking over here is hardly classed as a negative and with this course more suited to his abilities than Cheltenham, his third place at the Festival three weeks ago in the Grand Annual looks all the better giving him an outstanding chance.
Diego Du Charmil
You could understand top weights struggling against improving opposition in this type of race on soft ground, but this horse deserves to have the title and could yet defy the burden that comes with it.
Paul Nicholls’ contender has been forced to chase Altior home the last twice but won the Grade 1 Maghull Novices’ Chase on this card last year, making him a top class contender who’s won over the course and distance on the same ground.
Eamon An Cnoic
A solid betting proposition this week according to most, David Pipe’s gelding is peaking now over fences following wind surgery over the winter with an easy win at Chepstow having been followed up by a fine fourth in the Stable Plate at Cheltenham.
He may have shown his best over the undulations and/or over a more demanding trip however so enthusiasm at this end is tempered somewhat, but his mark of 139 doesn’t appear to truly reflect his potential and so he remains a danger under Tom Scudamore.
Philip Kirby’s ever popular mare showed her versatility with a Grade 2 win at Doncaster and a fourth place finish at the Festival over hurdles, but before that was reaching a peak over fences too and on ground she will encounter here.
Her win at Newbury was achieved in soft conditions over two miles and she did it comfortably before following up in a Listed race at Donny. She definitely has the ability but back in handicap company off 149 this won’t be easy and she might just be running for place money.
Nicky Henderson’s challenger is probably at the perfect career stage for this race and has proven his ability with good speed figures in competitive handicaps – twice in this very race in fact.
The trouble is that having been beaten off 141 and 144 in this contest in the past, coming into this renewal off 146 isn’t exactly a positive but he’s done it all before and is possibly the one they feel they have to aim at.
Theinval is solid, Lady Buttons remains fascinating and Diego Du Charmil undoubtedly has the class and the outright ability to defy his big weight, but there are some top contenders perhaps better handicapped this time around.
Adrrastos would be a fair each-way play in the race but there is so much to like about BRELAN D’AS all things taken into consideration and he gets the vote.