£100,000 is up for grabs in what is the final of a long and fascinating series of races.
Unsurprisingly, a full 24-runner field has been declared although we’ll see whether or not the weather leads to more non-runners before post time.
In any event, these are the six runners we like most against the big field:
A mark of 138 and a weight of 10st8lbs look perfect for Alaphilippe and he must have a serious chance here.
Fergal O’Brien’s runner has some top-class form to bring into this race from his novice season too. A wide-margin winner of the Prestige Hurdle at Haydock last year (Grade 2, soft), showed class and stamina while his fifth to Vanillier at this meeting in Grade 1 company of course reads well.
He was off the track for a while, but was sent off at 7/2 third-favourite at Warwick in January and he nearly justified that sort of price.
Alaphilippe led at the final flight that day before tiring out to finish fifth, but should he now be ready to put in the performance that was expected last time, or better of course, then he looks a well handicapped type and he definitely stays.
Nigel Twiston-Davies’ runner is a big price for this and how we think he might be capable of running is far from a certain outcome.
That said, he comes into this race on a hat-trick having done precious little wrong recently. He won easily at Fakenham and then scored again at Chepstow and is on a real roll now.
He is 27 races into his hurdling career however and it’s hard to say he’s got much more left to give.
Gordon Elliott’s Dunboyne is a fascinating contender. He comes into this race with form figures of 8050 this season, but that definitely doesn’t tell the full story.
Dunboyne has had precious little luck in running so far and on his best form he begins to look particular well treated on the official handicap.
We wouldn’t put anyone off backing him, though either side of a strong run in a qualifier for this event at Leopardstown in December he has run poorly and wouldn’t be considered on those performances.
Sire Du Berlais
Winner of this race in both 2019 and 2020, Sire Du Berlais is bound to be popular once again.
He has been handed a conditional rider to help with his weight and his recent form is not too shabby at all, so he certainly makes the list.
The basics are though that he is a ten-year-old now who has to carry 11st12lbs here, he is regressing overall and it would take a monumental effort for him to win the race against younger rivals.
The Jam Man
In the last year or so The Jam Man has been beaten 77 lengths, 56 lengths and, last time out, 82 lengths over hurdles but don’t let that put you off too much.
In between he has finished a strong fourth in a valuable event at Navan and also finished second to Sporting John at Warwick in the race Alaphilippe tired out in.
If he gets into a rhythm he can go well for sure, though he is passed over for the win.
Trainer Emmet Mullins has snapped up Paul Townend for the ride on Winter Fog and he comes into this event boasting the best recent handicap form.
At Leopardstown in December, he ran in that valuable qualifier in which the likes of Dunboyne also took part, finishing second to Panda Boy and only relinquishing the lead at the final flight of hurdles.
He’s very much going the right way, but he’s up 10lbs for that latest defeat and has to improve once more.
There are two major form lines to concentrate on as it turns out. The Pertemps qualifier at Leopardstown in December was a belting race, throwing up both Winter Fog and Dunboyne who both have chances.
The other is the qualifier at Warwick in January. There, The Jam Man ran well in second while Sire Du Berlais was back in fourth.
If that form is as strong as we think, then it’s impossible to ignore the newly tongue-tied ALAPHILIPPE and he gets the vote.
He looked like the winner of the race for a while before hitting a wall having been out for ten months. He will strip fitter now and should even have improved some more since then yet is down 2lbs in the handicap.