This is a huge three-mile handicap chase, these being the six we think are best suited to the job:
A most interesting contender for the Skelton team. With one win from 8 chases and form figures in two seasons of 123520-56, he wouldn’t be at the top of many punter’s shortlists but a closer look at his profile reveals him to be a top contender in these conditions.
Going back to his second race over fences, run over three miles on soft ground at Wetherby, he strode out really well and finished four lengths behind Sam Spinner, working him hard. He has since run second in a Grade 2 over the same track and trip, again on soft ground, and ran OK despite being fifth of 6 at Carlisle over an unsuitable 2½ miles.
His profile suggests he wants this full three miles, a galloping track and softer going making today’s conditions perfect. Any time Ardlethen has run significantly below expectations has come when one or more of these factors is very much against him and that could be noteworthy.
If we’re right about his need for certain race conditions, then having been rated 142 last year he could easily be up at the 150 level now, so off an official mark of just 137 the seven-year-old could be very well in.
Beware The Bear
Nicky Henderson’s runner may well be a ten-year-old now, but there is little doubt that he is just about at his best at this part of his career.
His best career chase performances came in March and November last year while his run in fifth behind Cloth Cap in the Ladbrokes Trophy was excellent given that the ground appeared too firm for him.
That leaves us with two ways to go; either he reaches a new peak now the ground is more in his favour or he reached his career high last season and at ten he may just go backwards now.
In handicapping him it might be wise to aim for just a tad below his very best, something that puts him bang in with a chance here.
A young horse, just a six-year-old in fact, who hands us the quandary of deciding whether he has tons of improvement to show us here or whether he will find the occasion all a bit too much.
He was certainly a better chaser France than he was a hurdler and stayed well on heavy ground, but that was over 2¾ miles on an easier track and there is no guarantee of him improving significantly enough now he is with Sophie Leech.
Espoir De Guye
As a last time out course winner on soft ground it would be folly to discount the chances of Venetia Williams’ gelding, and in fact the way the money has come in for him it appears many feel he is very much the one to be on.
The ground is not the issue here, but the trip is. All of Espoir De Guye’s best form has been over shorter, and while we cannot prove he won’t stay this trip in a hot race we certainly cannot prove that he can.
He has won in lower grades with less of a hot pace before but was found out at about this level at Cheltenham in March, adding to the doubts about his ability in Listed Class over three miles.
Anthony Honeyball’s twelve-year-old is thriving and won the Sodexho Gold Cup over this course and distance, in a Grade 3 and on soft ground two runs ago.
He didn’t like the firmer ground last time, something apparent in his past in looking at his profile, so a return to form is expected now but doing it off 5lbs higher than in late October makes him just a tad vulnerable.
The Grade 3 Ultima winner at the Cheltenham Festival is another who has been strongly backed, perhaps over bet in all honesty.
His run last time will have put him spot on, he will handle these conditions no problem and remains a very live prospect, but there is every chance that for now at least the eight-year-old has been handicapped to very near his best.
Not the biggest field for a Silver Cup, but a great race nonetheless. Regal Encore is an obvious shout given race conditions, while Beware The Bear is another slightly older campaigner who can yet produce something we haven’t seen before.
At the odds however ARDLETHEN looks very interesting given his apparent need for this trip and ground and he is backed to prove himself very well-handicapped for Dan Skelton.