Still known fondly to many of us as the Fairlawne, this two-and-a-half-mile chase on the New Course has attracted 16 high-quality runners all fighting for their share of a cool £100,000 in prize money.
Our six shortlisted runners all have a strong chance on paper, the final selection providing what we hope is excellent value for money for punters.
Lucy Wadham’s runner has so much going for him here from the bottom of the weights. A horse in terrific form, carrying only 10-3 around the New Course could be a big advantage even over 2½ miles.
The form of his impressive-looking 16-length win at Fakenham is what really intrigues us. He stayed on very strongly there over 2m5f to score by that big margin, and off this handicap mark even if we only take the form at face value, he’d still have gone close to topping our ratings. The fact that those in behind, on the numbers at least, all ran below form is actually a positive.
True, if it happened then it means he had an easier time of it than first thought. But, if the level they ran to that day was actually better than recorded, which is possible since they all apparently underperformed, then Admiral Barratry ran even more impressively meaning he could be a good way ahead of his current rating.
Similarly to Admiral Barratry, we have to decide on whether some past form of Alnadam’s is as impressive as it looked at the time.
Last February he beat nine rivals very well by 5½ lengths. He was comfortably clear that day and it seems, despite some not so positive recent form, that he needs the ground softer which makes that Sandown success his key piece of form in the context of this race.
However, we also note that he beat a bunch of old-timers that day who have mostly gone backwards since. The niggling doubt therefore is that he’s have beaten them regardless, so following a below-par run at Haydock in November he may have been overbet here as the likely favourite.
We really didn’t think on this page that Coole Cody was any longer capable of what he achieved when winning the Racing Post Gold Cup in December, but win it he did to justify the positive pre-race comments of trainer Evan Williams.
He’s been raised 4lbs for that, which isn’t a whole lot really, and he has been there and done it in these big Cheltenham handicap chases so cannot be ignored. It may just be that there is a younger, better-handicapped rival or two this time around.
Assuming he isn’t simply handicapped to his best, Venetia Williams’ runner has to be considered given that he could hardly be in any better form over the last twelve months.
Since the end of December 2020, Funambule Sivola has won at Newbury, Chepstow and Ascot while also chasing home Shishkin at Aintree and running second having been going best of all a few out in the Peterborough Chase recently.
That’s all great form, but his run dissipated at Huntingdon which doesn’t lead to huge confidence that he’ll see out the same trip on soft ground on the tough New Course.
Form-wise there’s plenty to like about Kauto Riko and it may be that the step down to 2½ miles after finishing second over three last time could play to his advantage.
He is getting on in years though and isn’t the best handicapped, so one more big leap forward for the change of race conditions is needed.
Nigel Twiston-Davies’ runner is a leading contender for sure, but hasn’t been seen as that by the bookmakers this week.
It could be that some people just don’t rate mares-only races the same as events like this, but that doesn’t change how impressive she was last time out over this course and distance.
A strong traveller, she jumped to the front here three weeks ago and powered clear to score by 11 lengths but she has gone up 12lbs in the handicap and now faces much tougher opposition.
If Alnadam’s Sandown win was a proper reflection of who he is and he can get over an average recent run then he is bang in with a chance on this soft ground. Vienna Court too may surprise a few and take that big weight hike in her stride, but really this should be about ADMIRAL BARRARTY and he is taken to score.