A fascinating renewal of the top race over Christmas on the cards, with eleven runners standing their ground at the five-day declaration stage. The 2017 winner Might Bite heads the market despite an under par return to action in the Betfair Chase at Haydock. The return to this easier jumping track should help him, with more emphasis on speed another plus. The prevailing decent ground will help him more than a number of his main market rivals so it’s no surprise to see him installed as the favourite.

There could be a real burn up on the pace with Coneygree, Bristol De Mai and Native River all potential runners. The three of them could end up setting it up for one ridden with a little more restraint so none of them makes huge appeal as the winner. Coneygree made a solid return at Cheltenham in a handicap, a display a long way short of what is required here, Bristol De Mai tends to save his best for Haydock while Native River would surely be far better suited to a visit to Leopardstown over Christmas to run in the Christmas Chase.

The 2016 winner Thistlecrack is one of the more interesting entries. He has never looked a natural chaser as he did over the smaller obstacles but that has not stopped him from winning at the top table. He shaped well in the Betfair Chase on his return to competitive action and it would be no surprise if he were capable of building on that effort. The strong pace will put pressure on his jumping so he will need to be at this best to triumph.

Politologue steps up to three miles here, something that his owner bought him for. Having shown plenty of natural pace, he has been kept to shorter trips but his win last time out when beating Charbel at Ascot gives hope that he may get this distance now. The runner-up franked the form well in the Peterborough Chase and with John Hales adamant that it will take a good one to beat him.

A win for Waiting Patiently would be a fairytale for Ruth Jefferson after the loss of her father. This has been the aim for a long time, looking well capable of holding his own in Grade 1 company, proving that with a defeat of Cue Card in a Grade 1 at Ascot in February. This trip and track should suit his strong travelling style but it’s a huge ask to win this famous race without having had a prior prep run to blow away the cobwebs.

Both the second and third from 2017 – Double Shuffle and Tea For Two – are amongst the entries once more. This looks a decent renewal of the race but both of them caught the eye with smart returns to action this season, with this likely to have been the big aim of the season for the pair of them. They can bide their time and pick up any scraps once more.

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Selection

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