Three winning favourites and a joint favourite in the last ten runnings including 6/5 shot Otago Trail last season but a weight range of eleven stone twelve all the way down to nine stone seven (after the jockey’s claim), so not a lot to learn there, though Venetia Williams has won three of them and seems a sensible starting point for our race preview. She had a few early entries for the 2016 renewal but has decided to rely on Aso (2/1) which may yet be a big hint. Two runs so far this season have seen a fourth to Taquin De Seuil and a second to Frodon which looks rock solid in the context of this race, and if he can add even slightly to those runs he will take an awful lot of beating here.
Kerry Lee’s Grey Gold (7/1) will carry top weight of eleven stone twelve on his seasonal debut and that may be asking a bit too much after a lay off of 255 days. He is very decent at his best as proved with wins at Carlisle, Punchestown, Sandown, here at Chepstow, and Newbury, though the majority of those were over two miles and he is yet to win over this far which has to be a major concern for all his supporters.
Ultragold (7/1) comes here as opposed to his others choices this afternoon which has to be seen as interesting, with trainer Colin Tizzard very much the man of the moment. Now an eight-year-old, he was brought down behind Poker School (who won again on Boxing Day), but had won at Newbury the race before and although put up fopur ppoiunds for that, who is to say that will stop him now.
Looking for in-form options and Tornado In Milan (6/1) can’t be faulted on the score with two seconds and a win in his three starts this season. Last time out he ran over course and distance off of four pounds lower before finishing runner up and only beaten two and a quarter lengths, but the handicapper has reacted accordingly and he may not find life quite as simple off his new mark.
Drumlee Sunset (5/1) is our final option and also arrives here at the top of his game after two wins at Exeter one over hurdles and one over fences, before a fifteen length second to Germany Calling at Doncaster when stepped out of novice company. He has only had two races over fences so has plenty of room for improvement but it may be asking a lot against these more seasoned campaigners, though if Philip Hobbs thinks he is up to it, that may very well be the case.