IN SUMMARY: Last year’s winner CREEVYTENNANT (9/1 Each Way) was pulled up on heavy ground when last in action but didn’t run badly that day and, with today’s drying conditions much more suitable, he is selected to dominate from the front. Second choice is Foundry Square, who was knocking about in hunter chases last year but proved he can still get competitive in handicaps when posting a good effort after an absence at Ludlow last month. Court By Surprise and Grandads Horse are others to consider. Opening Batsman ran a big race in the BetBright Chase in February but has become unreliable in recent years. Shotavodka looked in excellent nick when winning easily at Newbury last month but has been hiked up the weights as a consequence.
1 Mon Parrain – Scored off today’s mark at Cheltenham (3m2f, soft) in early 2015 and gave decent account when third there on seasonal reappearance in December; last month’s 71l defeat in the Kim Muir Chase shouldn’t be viewed too harshly but today’s race may not provide an adequate stamina test.
2 Opening Batsman – Has became rather difficult to predict in recent years and evidently isn’t quite as good as he once was, but comes here after very creditable second in BetBright Chase at Kempton (3m, good to soft) in February and will play a leading role if in similar form today.
3 Creevytennant – Bold-jumping front-runner who can be very difficult to pass when on song and was a clearcut winner of this race in 2015; pulled up in valuable veteran’s event on heavy ground at Sandown last time but ran well to a point that day and will be better suited by today’s conditions.
4 Shotavodka – Seemed to be in a steady decline until bolting up in veterans’ contest at Newbury (3m2f, good to soft) last month (Pete The Feat well held in second); hit with 12lb rise for that but remains feasibly weighted on old form and is dangerous to ignore in current mood.
5 Court By Surprise – Former Badger Ales Trophy winner who has a point to prove after running poorly in Sky Bet Chase on latest outing in January, but finished second at Chepstow (2m7f, good) on seasonal debut and will be suited by the right-handed track here; no surprise if he figures.
6 Grandads Horse – Soundly beaten in Kim Muir Chase at Cheltenham last month but had returned to form when close second at Doncaster (3m, good) two starts ago; subsequent 2lb nudge up the weights is manageable and he has a C&D win to his name; one to consider.
7 Pete The Feat – Ran well from the front when second in valuable contest at Sandown (3m, good to soft) two starts ago but subsequent 3lb rise is probably enough to make things tough for this 12yo, who was easily brushed aside by Shotavodka on latest outing four weeks ago.
8 Theatrical Star – Made late headway to claim respectable fifth on seasonal debut at Cheltenham (3m1f good) in October but ran in snatches that day and has looked out of sorts on all three outings since then; on workable mark now but needs to up his game; hood removed; tongue-tie refitted.
9 Forgotten Gold – Capitalised on sliding handicap mark when scoring on seasonal debut at Wincanton (3m2f, good) in October, and also ran well when fourth in Badger Ales Trophy over slightly shorter trip there the following month; disappointed last time but been given 113-day break; not ruled out.
10 Ardkilly Witness – Well beaten on first three starts for new stable this season but fared much better when runner-up in military riders’ event at Sandown (3m, soft) last month; will need to build on that performance to go one better in this more competitive race, though.
11 Si C’Etait Vrai – Displayed some very useful form in Ireland a few years ago but has been pulled up on both starts since returning from long absence for new stable this season; sports cheekpieces today and may yet come good for Neil Mulholland, but huge leap of faith required to support him.
12 Loch Ba – Pulled up on consecutive starts in early 2015 and was tailed off when returning from absence in November, his only start this season; ought to be fresher than most of today’s rivals but it’s very difficult to predict whether he’ll warm to the task this time.
13 Foundry Square – Seems to have a few quirks but was quite consistent (albeit without winning) in hunter chases last year and, having rejoined David Evans, made pleasing return from absence when second in Ludlow handicap (3m, soft) last month; could have a say.
14 So Fine – Caused 33-1 surprise over hurdles at Cheltenham (3m, soft) in December and runs off 1lb lower chase mark today; however, was comfortably held behind Shotavodka when fourth back over fences at Newbury last month, his first run in this sphere since 2013; others more convincing.
15 Representingceltic – Ended last season in poor form and has been absent since tailed off on reappearance outing in October; faces tough assignment here even if back on song and seems reliant on a sound surface.
myracing Forecast Prices: 5/1 Opening Batsman, Shotavodka, 8/1 Grandads Horse, Pete The Feat, 10/1 Creevytennant, Forgotten Gold, Ardkilly Witness, 12/1 Foundry Square, 14/1 Mon Parrain, 16/1 Court By Surprise, Theatrical Star, So Fine, 20/1 Si C’Etait Vrai, Loch Ba, 33/1 Representingceltic