A cracker of a race is in prospect and if the winner goes on to be as good as the likes of Our Vic, Silviniaco Conti, Menorah, or Cue Card then it lives up to previous renewals. Cue Card (8/11) was the last mentioned because he won this in 2015 and Colin Tizzard looks sure to let him make his return for this season here as the ten-year-old tries to win his fifteenth race and add to the £1,079,000 he has already amassed for his lucky owner. He obviously goes well fresh and is one of the best and certainly most popular chasers in training, and he fully deserves his place at the head of the market and ought to prove very difficult if not impossible to beat as he heads towards another shot at the Cheltenham Gold Cup in 2017.
As things stand Nigel Twiston-Davies will let Blaklion (6/1) will take his chance with Ryan Hatch taking three pounds off his back, but this is one tough race to start off in stepping out of novice class. Although his trainer’s opinions are elsewhere in the site in his weekly article, we can say that he is held in high regard in the stable and they think he can go all the way to the very top. Last season he ended up as the best staying novice after a win in the RSA Chase at the Cheltenham Festival which he followed with a good third to Native River at Aintree when he looked as if he may have had enough for the season. Freshened up at home since this is his first real test against his elders and betters but if he is as good as they think he is he won’t go down here without a fight.
Menorah (10/1) is getting on a bit now at the age of eleven but has popped up to take some big races over the years including this very race in 2014. Fourteen successes in total and eight over fences is impressive for any horse and he has the sped to win over shorter as well making him tactically adaptable. Whether they can get him fit enough first time out as he gets older is open to question but it may well be that they will prime him for today while others are looking at longer term targets and if there is a surprise then he could be the one to provide it.
With Saphir Du Rheu missing the race Paul Nicholls will rely on Virak (9/1) who is very much outclassed but does get weight from all bar David Pipe’s Dynaste thanks to the race conditions. Four seconds in his last five races must be frustrating for both owners and trainer alike, but he is only a seven-year-old and may have room to get a bit better with age. He has got an awful lot to do on paper and was beaten twelve lengths by Maggio in an Aintree handicap when last seen, and to be honest he would be unlikely to even get a mention were it not for his trainer’s better than 50% strike rate at present.
Talking of Dynaste (11/1) he will be the last one we mention and if David Pipe can ever get him back to his early form he could still be a major player here. After winning his first three starts over fences back in 2012 we all thought we had a potential superstar on our hands, but has only won twice since December 2012 and not at all since March 2014, a run of twelve starts without success. Aged ten it seems unlikely that he can be brought back to his very best now but you can never be sure in this game and he could even sneak in to a place at a decent price.