This will be a very tough handicap event. 3¼ miles await the 23 runners in conditions that will prove tough enough, with prices for this close event accurately representing what a hard call it is.
We’ve chipped away at the field however and believe the six below to be the ones most likely to run up to their best, with our ultimate selection appearing to be a very good value price indeed.
Bob Mahler has pulled up five times in 16 chase starts, but when he’s right he is particular good in staying races and his skills could be very useful here.
A year ago, Warren Greatrex’s runner was a very good third in the Kim Muir, albeit he was in better form going into the Festival, and now after coming back to himself at Musselburgh having pulled up three times in a row, he may well be very well handicapped.
That Musselburgh contest was the Edinburgh National over a mammoth 4m1f, though this three-a-and-a-quarter-mile race will be perfect for him.
Just a nine-year-old with plenty more to come, Bob Mahler is now racing off a mark of 135 and yet has been rated as high as 142 in the past, Harry Bannister hopefully getting the right tune out of him.
We have another son of Mahler here, this time owned by staying race specialist Trevor Hemmings. He’ll be hoping he’s got another long-distance superstar on his hands in the shape of the eight-year-old Philip Hobbs-trained horse who was fifth in last year’s Kim Muir.
Deise Aba was also a very good winner last time out, defeating six rivals in great style over a heavy three miles at Sandown Park.
In all fairness, he has followed the exact same prep with the same result as twelve months ago and if we’re being strict, he didn’t run quite as well at the Festival as at Sandown, which is perhaps just enough to put us off.
Hold The Note
Despite finishing runner-up, Hold The Note took a significant step forward last time out from his old form when chasing home Enrilo over three miles at Newbury.
That was a nice performance and it’s prevalent that he was a good third to Imperial Aura at last year’s Festival, so it may be that we see his very best form here once again.
Mount Ida is having only her fourth career chase start here which in itself may be a slight worry, but it certainly appears as though she has the talent needed to run well.
Just a fair third at Cork first time up, Mount Ida was a good winner at the same venue in December over two miles before she stepped up to two-and-a-half miles to run second at Thurles in January.
Clearly the hope off her mark of 139 is that significant improvement will be found now that she goes over a proper staying trip for the first time, with Jack Kennedy entrusted to get her home.
Plan Of Attack
Last year’s Kim Muir fourth Plan Of Attack has not been in any sort of form going into the Festival, but he is trained by one of the trainers of the moment, Henry De Bromhead, and ridden by Rachael Blackmore.
Having pulled-up twice last autumn this chap did improve to run 8th in a very valuable race in December, and so assuming he’s come right back to himself which the money for him would suggest, he’ll have a sound chance off a mark 3lbs lower than last year.
Trained by Paul Nicholls, Shantou Flyer was third at the Festival last year and arrives in good form this time around after a fourth and a second at Wincanton. He is getting on in years now though to be honest, and he’ll need to be at his very best to win.
Mount Ida is pretty hard to judge but, on the numbers at least, she is in there fighting and should go well. Deise Aba has gone through the same prep as before last year’s Festival and can again go very well, but the value could lie in BOB MAHLER.
Warren Greatrex’s horse is definitely well handicapped now having slipped to 135, but he’s coming back to himself now and could be ready to run right up to his best level which would be enough you would feel.