Not a lot to be learned from the statistics over the last ten years with winners aged from four all the way up to nine, odds from 7/4 to 11/1, and weights from ten stone to eleven stone eleven, though Nicky Henderson has won it three times in that period and seems a very good place to start our race preview. Brain Power has three wins and two places from seven starts to prove he has plenty of ability with a third to Don’t Touch It at Punchestown in the Champion Novice Hurdle in April the undoubted highlight. Returning to action at Cheltenham in the Greatwood Hurdle he was noticeably easy to back drifting out to 12/1 at the off before coming home a one paced eighth but the assumption has to be that he will be race fit this afternoon and if that is the case he could well take some stopping off a rating three pounds lower than when we last saw him in action.
Philip Hobbs is one of racings nice guys and he has Wishfull Thinking in here and he has chances on his better efforts even if he did disappoint last time out when only fifth at Cheltenham in a lesser contest. Backed down to 5/2 favourite that day he looked a little bit one paced over the two miles plus trip and may well be a bit better over further in the not too distant future, but he may well get to carry a bit less weight today upped in class and could well threaten the places once again for his top stable.
In recent months the punters have been putting more and more faith in trainer Dan Skelton and they have been backing Indietir in the early markets here, even though he has been absent from the track since November last year and will be having his first run for the stable since arriving from France. He has got good form with three wins from five starts over hurdles at Divonne-Les-Bains, Enghien, and Auteuil and is a bit of an unknown quantity and it will be interesting to see if the early bets have been wise investments, or not.
Paul Nicholls has decided to let Zubayr take his chance and as such he has to be a very serious contender. Only a four-year-old he was third to the very classy Footpad at Auteuil and was running a huge race at Wincanton when looking booked for second in the Elite Hurdle before falling at the last in a race won by Sceau Royal. That could be seen as better than handicap form but somehow he has been put up a pound for falling which does seem harsh but if he is as good as they seem to think he is then he will need to run a huge race here if they want to return him to even better company.
Meanwhile, Sussex trainer Gary Moore loves nothing more than a winner here and will be hoping for a really good day and could take this with recent winner Graasten who scored at Plumpton to take his maiden hurdle by three lengths at odds of 8/11 but frankly, failed to impress though he is undoubtedly well weighted having not been put up an ounce (seems like the handicapper wasn’t impressed either), and he will need to improve to take a hand in the finish here.
We end as we started with Nicky Henderson, also runs Consul De Thaix here. The four-year-old is an interesting contender who looks like he may have a lot more to offer yet. Two races since he arrived from Francois Nicolle after a good second at Auteuil and was thrown straight in at the deep end in the Triumph Hurdle trial when third to Protek Des Flos and followed that with a twenty-four length tenth in the Triumph Hurdle proper, which with hindsight may well have been asking too much for a maiden at that stage if his hurdling career. He does look the sort who will improve with experience and could be in for a profitable season, though whether he is up to this standard as yet is something we will only know for certain after the race.