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Gavin Cromwell has won this twice in recent years and he has a big chance of striking again with White Pepper. She won just one of 14 Flat races but made it second time lucky in this sphere at Galway last month, taking it up at an early stage and setting a tempo that none of her rivals could match. That form sets a clear standard in this field.
Third Time Lucki has looked the pick of the 2m novice chasers so far this winter and he can confirm that impression here. He came up short when sights were raised at the end of his hurdles campaign but the gelding has thrived since switching to the larger obstacles and was always holding off Sebastopol when completing a double at Cheltenham last time out.
Chacun Pour Soi disappointed on his last visit to these shores, only managing third in the Champion Chase, but he was otherwise invincible last season when he won a Grade 2 by 19l on his comeback before taking three Grade 1s.
He produced a flawless round of jumping when dominating Punchestown’s Champion Chase in April and a repeat performance at a track that should suit his style will make him very hard to beat.
Lucinda Russell’s string are in great shape and she has every chance of landing this big price with Might Thunder. Last season’s Scottish Grand National winner found the 3m Charlie Hall Chase an insufficient test at Wetherby last time out but he progressed steadily over fences last winter and remains capable of better in just his eighth chase start.
This marathon looks wide open but Red Infantry is one I can see going well at an each-way price. He hasn’t been the most consistent since returning from a spell on the sidelines but he showed the ability remains with a Doncaster win in March and wasn’t disgraced at Warwick two weeks ago, racing up with the pace until getting tired in the closing stages.
Pounding Poet had to settle for second over this course and distance last time out but he can go one better. Tom Lacey’s gelding won both handicaps before a summer break and was far from disgraced on his comeback, as only Mackleduff proved too strong in a race run at an unsuitably slow tempo.
Hudson De Grugy can enhance an already impressive course record in the Listed handicap hurdle. He was runner-up on his stable debut over course and distance last December but has won all three subsequent visits, most recently four weeks ago when he saw off Will Sting despite a tardy jump at the final flight. There is more to come if he can brush up his jumping.
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