Three winning favourites (if you include a joint favourite) in the last ten years, but none in the last five. Charlie Mann’sSome Kinda Lama (Non Runner) who our original tip for this race, but was declared a Non Runner around 1pm.
Supreme Vinnie is our replacement tip, under claiming jockey Rachael Blackmore. The Irish raider has won three of his last seven starts, including last time out at Gowran Park over this sort of trip. Up nine pounds for that, he has improved significantly for the step up to these sorts of trips and there could well be more to come. A 9lb rise from the handicapper isn’t unfair and with the benefit of two runs under his belt recently following his summer break there should be more improvement to come for this seven year old.
Meanwhile, the Warren Greatrex trained Out Sam (11/1) could well be the one who is carrying favourite backers cash come race time. His trainer has his horses firing on all cylinders and he is returning to hurdles again. Five races over fences for two wins at Catterick and Newbury isn’t a bad return by any means but he has some solid hurdling form to his name including wins at Newbury and Ascot though he did fall at the eighth behind Martello Tower in the 2015 Albert Bartlett at the Cheltenham Festival.
Very Extravagant (11/1) is a multiple winner worthy of a spot in our race preview after winning three races in a row at Uttoxeter (twice) and Fontwell. Neil Mulholland has placed the seven-year-old pretty cleverly so far but would be stepping him up in class this afternoon off a seven-pound higher mark though he would be carrying bottom weight or very close to it.
If there is a dark horse here then the Richard Hobson trained Allysson Monterg (12/1) could be the one despite just the one win over hurdles when he scored by nine lengths at Leicester. He followed that with a sixth to Unowhatimeanharry in the Albert Bartlett Novice Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival which is top class novice form. How he gets on this season in handicap company is an interesting question but he could well be of interest at a decent price.
Irish Saint (18/1) is of similar interest (though not so well weighted, perhaps), though this time for trainer Paul Nicholls as he returns for his first run since April 2015. Over fences he has been competing with the likes of the ill-fated Vautour, and more recently stable companion Saphir Du Rheu while his last run over hurdles was a sixth to The New One at Aintree in the Doom Bar Aintree hurdle. This looks easier than that but he has only been dropped two pounds and seems sure to improve for his first run in a long time.
With Colin Tizzard continuing to compete in pretty much all the better races it will be interesting to see how Valhalla (9/1) gets on here as the six-year-old son of Scorpion looks for his second win over hurdles at the seventh attempt. He has already had two runs this season for two places at Newton Abbot (third to The Romford Pele) and then here at Cheltenham when second to Midnight Ahoy, but he has been put up another three pounds for that but can negate that with the step back up to a more suitable trip this afternoon.
To round off the review we have the Philip Hobbs trained Fingal Bay (12/1) who will be ridden as you would expect by Richard Johnson. Rated 148 today he has won off this mark and even a pound higher so they are not asking him for the impossible, though he hasn’t won since taking the Pertemps Network Final at the Cheltenham Festival when sent off the 9/2 favourite in March 2014. Ten races without a win since, nine of them over fences, but plenty of places to suggest he has not lost all his abilities, and with the stable ticking over nicely he is another for the short list.