Given that it takes place at the Cheltenham Festival, is a handicap and is worth £110,000, this race is as competitive as it should be and narrowing this lot down has been a chore!
The shortlisted seven, not including favourite Vinndication who may just have too much weight, could all give you a good run for your money:
Although he didn’t run too well here last year, it would be mad to think that a horse with such esteemed connections can’t go well and we must remember that Nicky Henderson’s horse upped his game at Cheltenham in 2017 when fourth in the Baring Bingham.
His chase career has got off to a decent start with a couple of wins from six runs, though with such a huge improvement shown we have to decide whether or not his comfortable win on soft ground at Newbury in December was any sort of fluke. If not, he’s in with a chance at a big price.
Trained in Ireland and off the track for a wee while having had a wind operation, this seven-year-old has run second at two Cheltenham Festivals in a row so we know there are no worries about the terrain.
With the ground holding no fears either and improvement expected, we remain on the positive with this one and expect a big run although naturally given his profile (other than his festival runs), he is one of the harder runners in the line-up to properly assess.
A winner at Cheltenham this season already when beating Wholestone in a novices’ chase, Warren Greatrex’s eight-year-old is a horse who should handle the occasion and who undoubtedly has more improvement to come.
He was soundly beaten at Newcastle last time in a two-runner event, but he was heavily eased once his chance had gone and if he’d been ridden out, he would have likely recorded what would have strictly speaking been his best career run despite the lack of opposition.
Fairly heavily bet for this despite a less than impressive chasing record thus far, we think there is something there with this horse and he can’t be overlooked too easily but using only real evidence and not whispers, there isn’t enough to go on to think he can suddenly win a race of this nature.
David Bridgwater’s runner’s profile is a fine combo; an eight-year-old with doubtless more to offer and yet a little experience in the bank which will help his cause in such a competitive race.
Having had a pipe-opener, he started his season well with a victory around here in very similar conditions, beating West Approach in a handicap.
Having run a very fine second behind De Rasher Counter in the Ladbrokes Trophy he has continued to go up in the weights, but it only reflects his improvement overall and we expect a career best today.
His Grand National experiment didn’t go to plan when he was soundly beaten as favourite at Warwick last time, but he still ran a creditable fourth that day, wants this drop back in trip and is very much match fit.
Despite having been around the block a few times, Sue Smith’s horse continues to race at a high level and may yet be able to pull another one out of the fire.
Although marked as a bit of a Haydock specialist, he was second in this race last year and despite being 7lbs higher in the weights this time around, can go well again.
Who Dares Wins
Another strong contender; this horse has done well over hurdles, fences, on the all-weather and in flat turf races so is certainly versatile enough.
He comes into this race with a record of two seconds and a win in three chase starts, with the only doubt being whether or not he can pull out more in a big handicap and over this course.
A tough race then as always, but while there may have been some clever prep work done in the background and there may be more improvement to come from the likes of Discorama, Who Dares Wins and Burbank, the solid one for us is undoubtedly THE CONDITIONAL.
A tough horse, a course and distance winner, fairly experienced and yet still with a career high to come, there isn’t much not to like about Brendan Powell’s mount and so he gets the nod to give us a great start to the festival.