Race Time: 1.45pm Meeting: Cheltenham Day: Friday 11th December 2015 Full Race Name: Ryman Stationery Handicap Chase (Grade Three) Class One
Just one glance at the early runners and we are in for a real treat if even half of the better ones stand their ground come race day (and they have). We really like Vieux Lion Rouge (5/1) as a horse after he rattled up his third win of the season at Haydock last month, staying on strongly over the three miles to win going away off a rating of 139, and on his first race since June. Sure to improve again for that run, he has been put up seven pounds for that success but is getting better race on race and may even be able to shrug that off with the added fitness advantage, which when added to another quarter mile today which seems ideal, looks to make him the one they all have to beat come race time and the most likely winner in our view.
Paul Nicholls has decided to rely on Wonderful Charm (10/1) from his early list of entries though top weight of eleven stone twelve is quite an ask after over seven months off. Although he has run some very good races over further it needs noting that he is yet to actually win beyond two miles five furlongs, and that has to be a concern, though his two necks third over three miles one at Aintree last April does suggest he will stay, possibly only on decent going though and we all know rain is still a possibility.
With Carole’s Destrier out trainer Neil Mulholland relies on The Druid’s Nephew (13/2), and with a run under his belt he would be a very serious danger to them all. He was certainly put in his place at Wetherby when beaten over a hundred lengths behind Kilcooley, and will need to put in a career best effort to win off a rating of 156 (ten pounds higher than his best win at Cheltenham last March, but there is still a hope he is better than a handicapper, so a big run is very much on the cards today.
Henrietta Knight may have officially retired but we suspect she offers the odd bit of advice to Mick Channon who sends Knock House (6/1) here after his neck win at Cheltenham last month under Nina Carberry. He has been put up a silly five pounds for that victory but was running on very strongly over a furlong less so cannot be discounted here, and with Brian Hughes in the saddle he certainly looks to have place chances at least.
Lastly, we will be watching the run of veteran chaser Aachen (12/1) with interest after he made all to score last time out at Wincanton. He carries exactly ten stone before jockey Charlie Deutsch’s five pound claim, which is made up of his rating plus his five pound penalty so he is not running from out of the weights as some are suggesting, and off a featherweight if he front runs again there is a very good chance he could get away from them here and take a heck of a lot of catching.