Many see this as the race that kick starts the new jumps season bur punters beware, just the three winning favourites in the last ten years and the last two winners returned at 11/1 and 16/1. David Pipe and Paul Nicholls have won it three times each in that period but with the first named unrepresented we need to start our race preview with the Nicholls camp who have a couple of entries headed by the look of it by Present Man (5/1) who sits lower in the weights and has the added bonus of Jack Sherwood to take an extra five pounds off the horse’s back. Really lightly raced with just the three starts over fences for two seconds and a win over two and a half miles last time out when rated seven pounds lower, he has run well over this trip in the past and has a lot more room for improvement than most and seem sure to go really well this afternoon for his on fire stable and he can land out bets this afternoon.
Neil Mulholland has entered the ever popular The Young Master (13/2) here with Sam Whaley-Cohen expected in the saddle, and the seven-year-old rarely runs a bad race. He has won over further at Sandown so stamina is not an issue, but will need a career best now off a rating of 150 and after a six month lay-off that may be asking a bit too much of him.
Poor Cocktails At Dawn (14/1) is all set to carry top weight for trainer Nicky Henderson and deserves his rating after wins at Sandown and Chepstow in 2015, though why he hasn’t been dropped at all for a fifty-seven length fourteenth of twenty plus a fall and a pulled up in his last three races seems a little strange. Yet to win beyond two miles five furlongs he may yet improve for the step up to this trip but it does look as if he will need to and good as he is, he needs to prove that before we will consider a bet in this standard of field.
Continuing through those with decent chances and Alan King has entered Ziga Boy (16/1) in this contest as he looks to add to earlier wins over fences at Moulins in France as well as here over course and distance and twice at Doncaster. Admittedly he has failed twice since but he has now had a good chance to recover from all those efforts and may well go well here fresh.
To round things off, Charlie Longsdon has Bob Tucker (28/1) in here off a low weight and he could yet be a lively outsider. After winning two races in a row in Aril and May he was put up in the weights and has been well beaten twice since but he is back down to something near a racing weight again and won’t be that far away at the finish.
Lastly, Paul Nicholls also runs Southfield Theatre (10/3) here and he is not entirely out of this either. Good as his race record is he has never really set the world alight as connections once hoped though he is eight pounds better off with The Young Master now for six lengths on April Sandown form but hasn’t been seen since and this is some race to come back in with race fitness at a real premium.