We have a hugely competitive renewal of this race here and we could well be going at least 5/1 the field come the off. Plenty of the major yards are represented this time with at least ten holding some sort of winning chance you’d feel, though we’ve managed to narrow this lot down to a shortlist of six we believe we can separate from the field.
It’s not certain that Alan King’s 8-year-old is going the right way at present, although his latest under-par run could perhaps be explained away by unsuitably very soft ground at Ascot which was the case for many a runner there back in December.
His seasonal opening two-and-a-half-mile win at Newbury reads much better and based on that, assuming he wants this three-mile distance, he’d have a chance here off a mark of 137 which is only 2lbs higher than when he last won.
There could be lots more to come from Nicky Henderson’s gelding following his commanding win at Newbury over an extended 2m6f trip late last month, with this track and trip promising to be up his street.
In winning by nine lengths it’s obvious he was ahead of the handicapper on his last appearance, however having gone up 11lbs for that win there is no guarantee he’s still sufficiently in front so while he remains a very solid candidate all things considered, enthusiasm is just tempered a bit until we see him perform again.
The visored Dingo Dollar is probably Alan King’s first string in this race and he’s interesting from the point of view that we automatically take it that when horses are stepping up in trip for the first time they may improve, yet in this case he is possibly about to benefit from a slight step back in distance.
Racing over three-and-a-quarter miles on his last three starts, including at Newbury and Cheltenham, the 8-year-old has performed well but the three miles on this flatter track could well get him back to his best form, something that would see him challenge off what is his best handicap mark since winning over this course and distance as a novice.
We liked this one for the Paddy Power Handicap Chase at Cheltenham and he remains of interest, though to be honest with another poor run to his name patience could run out pretty quickly.
He has obvious talent as evidenced when winning twice a year ago, but since then he’s gone right off the boil so while he has to make the shortlist based on potential, his current form doesn’t really do much to inspire.
Some would argue that Jonjo O’Neill isn’t the force he once was but his results haven’t made him a bad trainer overnight and in Quarenta he has one climbing the ranks and seemingly able to challenge for a race of this standard.
His eight chase starts so far have yielded three wins a two runners-up spots, so while his handicap mark continues to rise so does his stock and it would be no surprise to see him looking strong as the field round the final bend.
The trainer/jockey combo of Sue Smith and Danny Cook know this place like the back of their collective hand and so we were rather surprised Ravenhill Road wasn’t more strongly fancied in terms of the bookmakers’ opening quotes on Friday.
True, this horse is fairly inexperienced and has won just one of his 7 chase starts to date, but he’s been demonstrably improving over the past year and a bit and appeared to reach a new level when being bumped up to almost 2¾ miles at Haydock when winning last time out.
This race looks ideal for him and so do the likely conditions, perhaps marking him out as the one to be on off a very workable handicap mark of 133.
A frightfully competitive race on the face of it, one in which any number could be challenging come the business end. Quarenta is interesting as is Azzerti, while Burbank looks a solid option from an each-way point of view but is likely to be somewhat overbet.
The one showing enough improvement and seemingly crying out for a distance is Sue Smith’s RAVENHILL ROAD though and he gets the nod this time with a race at Cheltenham perhaps not being outside of his compass either.