A surprisingly small if select field for this valuable hurdle that has been won in the past by the likes of Dodging Bullets winning it in 2012 and two winning favourites plus a joint favourite in its short seven-year history. On official ratings Paul Nicholls has this by the throat with his two early entries clear of the rest, headed by Adrien Du Pont (13/8) who has a race record of four wins from five starts, three of them when sent off as favourite including last time out at Ascot when beating Oceane by six lengths despite trying to go through a few of the hurdles instead of bothering to jump them. He is officially the best horse in the race and may well go off favourite again but his supporters will need to factor in his lack of hurdling skills when trying to work out if he represents any value, though he will have been well schooled of course at Ditcheat ahead of his return to action.
What others seem to have failed to notice is that Alan King’s Gibralfaro (7/2) is best in at the weights being rated five pounds lower than Adrien Du Pont yet receiving eight pounds from that rival thanks to the weight for age hurdle allowance. He has also had the added benefit of a run this season when third to Diego Charmil at Chepstow beaten two and a half lengths at the line and if he can brush up on his hurdling (and he is sure to have been well schooled) he would arrive here with every chance and looks worthy of a bet to us this afternoon.
Alan King has two entered here to confuse us and both of them look to have chances as well and could both get involved in the finish. The early booking of Daryl Jacob suggests that Sceau Royal (11/2) will take his place in the starting line up so we will add him to out race preview first even if we prefer his stable companion’s chances! A son of Doctor Dino and yet another French import he has won four of his nine starts over hurdles and beat Adrien Du Pont here in December last year at level weighty and gets four pounds from that rival this afternoon, and although his form tailed off toward the end of last season (he was behind Diego Charmil at Aintree), he may be better fresh and should go well this afternoon for his popular trainer.
Wolf Of Windlesham (10/1) has to be of some interest (even if the ratings suggest otherwise) with his three wins from four record over hurdles. Not seen in action since May when third on the flat at Goodwood, his fitness needs to be taken on trust but he does bring a course and distance win to the party which is something none of the others can offer, and could go a lot better than his price suggests this afternoon.
To end with for now and the ex John Ferguson trained Leoncavallo (8/1) is an interesting one on his first run for Ben Pauling. He started off really well over hurdles winning five in a row and was hardly disgraced when fifth to Ivanovich Gorbatov in the Triumph Hurdle, and has finished first and second on the flat over the summer to prove his well-being. He does look to need a little more to get involved this afternoon but should go well regardless and can pick up a race or two this season if placed in the more appropriate races.