A field of thirteen has been assembled for this usually fascinating and competitive three-mile handicap chase.
Many of these have appeared to have reached their peak form or in some cases gone beyond it, but in any event the below six runners make up our shortlist with the event potentially wide open for an improving type to grab it:
Evan Williams trains this six-year-old gelding who’s been hurdling lately but who is most certainly better over fences.
A winner at Ludlow last December over two-and-a-half miles, his only try over this trip resulted in him falling at Exeter when an 18/1 shot so we don’t know a lot about his stamina.
Having improved over hurdles however in two runs this November, we can assume he is simply a better horse now overall. With that in mind, his having come down from a mark of 139 to 134 in this sphere clearly makes him well handicapped.
Belami Des Pictons
Favourite on the boards all week for Venetia Williams, Belami Des Pictons had to make the shortlist but in all truth punters are taking a chance on his weight drop being generous.
He has gone quickly from a mark of 144 last February to 135 now, but he’s had lots of time off the track, is approaching 11 and frankly very much has a regressive profile overall.
We have to go back to February 2017 to find the last time this horse won, so regardless of apparent lenient official ratings and any whispers about his form, as a punter you’d be taking a big leap of faith at these odds.
Nicky Henderson has had some stick lately but the fact is he’ll be winning his share of big Saturday races. His only runner in this one is Caribean Boy who overall is a very consistent type over fences.
A winner over two-and-a-half miles at Haydock and Newbury last year, he has form figures in 2021 of 47P0 but he has performed at a very similar level each time and yet has come down 9lbs in the handicap.
That caught our eye, however he is also unproven over this trip and isn’t exactly a prolific winner so once again, supporters take their chances.
Nigel and Sam Twiston-Davies have a live contender here in Checkitout who has been placed on both starts this year at Ascot and Aintree.
An albeit distant third to Snow Leopardess in the Becher Chase last time out, his form is solid and we’d have to believe that the more extreme conditions at Aintree didn’t show him in the very best light and that today will be much better for him.
On the downside; that race will have taken plenty out of him and his profile overall is one of a consistent horse but not a huge improver. Place chance.
Possessing the required class but not carrying too much weight, looking certain to improve on what he’s done before and looking nailed on to want three miles, there is so much to like about Paul Nicholls’ Grand Sancy.
True, he’s not a prolific scorer either having not won any of his last six chases, but he did win two before that and he has been creeping back up towards his peak form since his losing run started.
Assuming another modest step forward here, Grand Sancy would now be near his previous best and yet would be achieving it off a mark some 14lbs lower than his peak rating which cannot be ignored.
Fellow JP McManus runner Regal Encore gets the first choice colours, but Jerrysback is more than capable and makes up our shortlisted horses.
Philip Hobbs’ nine-year-old has failed to finish in his last three, but often there are mitigating circumstances. Before that, he’d shown a level of form that would make a mockery of his current handicap mark and so a full round of jumping can see him go very close.
He’s stayed this distance before unlike many other contenders in the field and still has low mileage, so cannot at all be written off.
It was difficult to find too many progressive types here, but the one that does fit into that category and could take a big enough leap forward is Paul Nicholls’ GRAND SANCY.
Only a seven-year-old and with more potential than all of his main market rivals, Grand Sancy has only won a pair of three-runner races in 2020 in his chase career but that doesn’t tell the full tale.
He can land this race now ahead of Jerrysback who needs a return to form but remains capable, while Caribean Boy can also grab a place.