Just the five renewals of this race but they have seen two winning favourites and a joint favourite and no winners at bigger than 4/1 so it looks like a bit of a punters’ paradise, though the field looks more competitive than normal this year so we shall see. Rebecca Curtis has her horses ticking over nicely and must have a decent chance with Irish Cavalier who is better than average at his best but can put in the odd bad run. He pulled off a shock when winning the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby at 16/1 in October with the odds-on Cue Card back in third but was pulled up last time out at Haydock in the Betfair Chase when tailed off behind the same rival and Coneygree but the ground will have been against him that day.
Next on our list and a shoo in for any race preview worth reading we have 2015 Grand National winner Many Clouds who has his first run of the season here presumably on his way to Aintree again next April. Many punters will see him as little more than a staying handicapper but he is a lot better than that as proven with wins at Carlisle, Wetherby, Newbury, and Cheltenham before his headline grabbing success here, and at Kelso since and is only a nine-year-old so is anything but a back number. It does seem fair to guess that he may not be 100% race fit today with April his seasonal target but he is a class act and could yet play a big part come race day.
Recent days have seen the Jonjo O’Neill yard start to get in among the winners and at his best Minella Rocco will be staying on late to power past most and possibly all of these. His last win was in the National Hunt Chase at the Cheltenham Festival last March when beating none other than Native River (who won the Hennessy Gold Cup last weekend), and although he has failed to repeat that in his one race since, he was a decent enough third on his return and should be spot on this afternoon.
Nicky Henderson is never a man to ignore in the televised races and he has the well backed Cocktails At Dawn in here though he does look to have a bit to find to compete against some of these. Yet to win beyond two miles five furlongs, his last three races have seen him finish a fifty-seven lengths fourteenth in the Paddy Power Gold Cup in November 2015 before falling here last April in the Topham Chase and pulling up last May back here and in our view he has a lot to prove before he can be mentioned as a serious betting opportunity.
Finally we have Le Mercurey who can’t be ruled out despite the fact that he is the outsider of the field. He beat the classy Bristol De Mai at Ayr on his final race last season which looks solid form and returned with a decent third to Sub Lieutenant at Down Royal and if he can build on that he could yet be a very serious player.