IN SUMMARY: DUNRAVEN STORM (6/1) has a worrying tendency to clout the occasion fence but is a classy performer when on song and will find this much easier than the Grand Annual Chase he contested at Cheltenham last time. Off a workable mark and with conditions suitable, he could dominate this field from the front. Fago comes with risks attached after dropping out very tamely at Ayr last month but presumably had a problem that day and Paul Nicholls is evidently content to let him take his chance here. The form of his second in a Listed handicap in Wetherby in October was very well advertised by the winner and he’s a possible danger to the selection.
1 Dunraven Storm – Hasn’t won since November 2014 but did very well to finish second in valuable event at Ascot (2m1f, good to soft) in November, having made three significant jumping errors; didn’t run badly when midfield in the Grand Annual Chase at Cheltenham in March and commands respect off workable mark in this easier race.
2 Fago – Weakened quickly when returning from break at Ayr last month but something was presumably amiss that day; may prefer some underfoot ease but now back on same mark as when second in a Listed handicap at Wetherby (2m3f, soft) in October, and that form worked out well; good chance if all is well today.
3 French Opera – Old-timer who hasn’t tasted victory since April 2011; proved a significant chunk of ability remains when second at Leicester (2m6f, good) in November and is now 6lb lower, but his two subsequent runs over 3m were disappointing and he may find today’s trip too sharp nowadays.
4 Thomas Crapper – Took a while to open his account over fences but scored in first-time cheekpieces at Newbury (2m4f, good) last month and also ran well when fourth at Sandown (2m4f, good) three weeks later; won’t be far away if in same form in first-time blinkers today.
5 Un Beau Roman – Gained clearcut success over C&D (soft) in January, his second start for Paul Henderson, but has looked out of sorts on all four starts since then; this is easier than some of those assignments but it still takes a leap of faith to support him.
6 Parsnip Pete – Won Grade 3 handicap at 2014 Aintree festival off 1lb higher mark and was successful again over that C&D a few months later, but was soundly beaten on all six starts last year; subsequent 142-day break might have done him good but his current ability is hard to gauge.
7 Turn Over Sivola – Has slipped to an attractive mark if ready to roll after three-month break and will be suited by today’s ground but his only win from 17 starts over fences came in a three-runner novice event and his finishing effort is usually disappointing; will probably continue to frustrate.
8 Helium – In the form of his life when completing a quick hat-trick in the autumn and slow ground excuses some of his subsequent defeats; proved he can get competitive off today’s mark when third at Sandown (2m, soft) in February, though, and also ran well on the Flat last month; not out of this.
9 Purple ‘n Gold – Stayed on well to snatch second (albeit no match for winner) at Chepstow (2m3f, good) recently and remains just 1lb above mark off which he scored at Worcester (2m, good) in September; claims on that evidence but has a few foibles and is not one for maximum faith.
myracing Forecast Prices: 9/2 Purple ‘n Gold, 5/1 Thomas Crapper, 11/2 Dunraven Storm, 6/1 Turn Over Sivola, 7/1 Parsnip Pete, 8/1 Fago, French Opera, Helium, 16/1 Un Beau Roman