Not a bad race for the punters with not one winner at a double figure price in the last ten years and five favourite (or joint favourites) over the same period, but perhaps even more importantly, a certain Mr Nicky Henderson farms this race with five of the last ten winners including last season with 5/1 shot full shift, who was ridden by Barry Geraghty.
As things stand he may well have more than one runner, but has already booked Andrew Tinkler to ride Gold Present (7/2) and that may well be a hint in itself. Lightly raced for a six-year-old, he has won three of his eight career starts with two novice hurdles over two miles two and a half furlong at Stratford and Market Rasen and made his debut over fences at Doncaster over two miles three last month. He was up near the front from the start that day under the same jockey and galloped his rivals in to submission staying on strongly to win by close to four lengths pulling away, and as that was his first run since April, a rest of seven months, it seems fair to assume he will improve for the outing. Easy to back as well, he can only get better but be warned, he did make a few mistakes and although sure to have been well schooled since, that aspect and his inexperience do need to be built in to final calculations.
Switching trainers to the Champion and Paul Nicholls had a few early entries but has decided to rely on San Benedeto (8/1) and that may be a clue in itself. Two wins from six races over fences isn’t too bad a record though his four runs this season haven’t exactly set the world alight. Three places in small field were followed by unseating poor Sam Twiston-Davies at Cheltenham earlier this month, and in our view he really needs to do an awful lot better if he wants to bother our selection.
Since the retirement of the legendary A P McCoy it seems fair to say that Richard Johnson has had the chance to prove his true worth from the saddle and he is an interesting booking to ride the Ian Williams trained Poker School (7/2) who is nowhere near as classy as the selection but does get twelve pounds from the selection. Last time out he beat Dusky lark by five lengths at Ascot scooting clear hard held so is clearly in very good form but the handicapper has reacted with an added eight pounds and he will do well to come home in front of some less exposed rivals.
Next in our race preview we note that the likeable Tom George is banging in the winners of late and he has Max Ward (7/1) entered here who belongs on anyone’s short list. Decent enough over hurdles with wins at Taunton and Aintree, he returned from a long lay-off (27 months) at Huntingdon for his chasing debut when winning by four lengths from Querry Horse but found Altior and Charbel far too good next time out when a twenty length third. That run may well have come a bit too soon after his break and he may well have “bounced”, but more importantly he was staying on when the race was over that day, and could do a lot better upped in trip this afternoon.
To end with for now Dan Skelton is a popular trainer at present and he has entered Two Taffs (6/1) here and he could be interesting on his best form. Two runs this season have seen a win over two and a half miles at Carlisle in October but a well beaten (thirty-six lengths) seventh over two miles seven at Haydock on heavy ground, but both of those were over hurdles and this will be his debut over fences. Dropped back in trip here he has always had the look of a chaser and is well worth a watching brief at the very least here as we assess his abilities ahead of future engagements