At two miles, four-and-a-half furlongs and with an extra 57 yards now added, we should take note that this race may take more getting than many realise.
It’s another full field with the contenders coming from various form angles, making it difficult to solve, but nevertheless we’ve narrowed this one down to the following six horses:
Nicky Henderson and Daryl Jacob team up here and its pertinent to note that Caribean Boy has shown his best form on good ground. The fact that his win in said conditions was in a three-runner race will lead people to think that he’s not right for this, however we reckon that’s not true.
After beating yardstick Fiddlerontheroof in easy fashion, we began to get an idea of where he’s really at. He didn’t improve much in two starts after his Newbury success, but that was on softer ground and he may be seen to much better effect now.
Three times a winner in Ireland, Farclas comes here on the back of a fair fourth when favourite for a valuable handicap chase at the Dublin Racing Festival at Leopardstown while before that he was third of 22 in a three-mile race at the same venue.
It’s unlikely that he’ll be crying off up the hill then, with the only thing remaining when assessing him being to decide how well handicapped we think he is.
He shouldn’t be too far away, but his run of three defeats in three handicap races means he can’t be considered miles ahead in that regard.
Joseph O’Brien’s runner really can go in the potentially well-handicapped category based on his novice chase win at Navan back in December.
He was a comfortable scorer that day over two-and-a-half miles and subsequently took on Envoi Allen in a Grade 3 race, running him to 3½ lengths.
He was thrown into Grade 1 company last time when well beaten off by Monkfish and co, and while that’s not his level his official mark of 145 seems a little generous to us and he could be there or thereabouts.
Way overpriced in the market is Jonjo O’Neill’s Maypole Class. A little inexperienced, he’s done precious little wrong so far with his rate of improvement from race to race being the thing that catches our eye.
Climbing the ladder quickly after a poor run on his chase debut, Maypole Class landed a handicap chase at Bangor and easily defied a 5lb rise to win in comfortable fashion over 2m5f at Fakenham.
He pulled up last time, but that was on ground softer than ideal and he was reported to have been lame afterwards so now that he’s back to full health he can continue his progress and that makes him look a well handicapped animal at a very big price.
Sully D’Oc AA
JP McManus bought this horse out of France and since he’s gone chasing in this country, he has progressed slowly but steadily.
A winner over 2m3f at Ascot in October, he seems ready for this sort of test now and was sent off favourite for a decent race at Newbury last time out where he ultimately finished third.
Conditions would be ideal for him we reckon, he’s run OK at Cheltenham in the past and represents a fair each-way chance.
The one for money this week, The Shunter represents Emmet Mullins and has won four from 6 all in all since last Autumn.
His latest win was a hurdle success at Kelso, one that showed him to be better than ever which is why he has been well backed, and so with his chase mark being some 7lbs lower than his hurdle rating many believe him to be very well handicapped.
He’s a danger for sure, though he’ll have to improve on his one handicap chase outing to date when he was beaten at Leopardstown, albeit in a decent third place.
Anthony Honeyball’s Sully D’Oc AA remains of interest, while it’s easy to see why there has been so much interest in The Shunter this week.
To small stakes at massive odds however, it may well be worth taking a chance on MAYPOLE CLASS who is potentially well-in here.
Underfoot conditions and the race distance should be up his street, while it seems unlikely that the large field should overly bother him either. Gavin Sheehan takes the ride.