A really classy race in prospect with all eyes on the return to action of the one-time brilliant Simonsig (4/1) as Nicky Henderson looks to repeat last years’ win with Sprinter Scare here and get the grey back on track for all the big races over two miles and beyond. Back in 2012 when they were both at their peak Nicky struggled to pick between the pair of them on homework and as we all know Sprinter Sacre is the best two mile chaser of the last decade or more that is high praise indeed, but can he ever get back to that form. Last time out he was sent over hurdles when a forty length eleventh to Un De Sceaux in the valuable Prix La Barka at Auteuil in late May but he is thought to be back to near his best now and this may be his last chance to go to the very top over fences at the age of ten with his best years possibly behind him now.
Looking at official ratings and it looks like Special Tiara (7/2) is close to unbeatable, if only life was that easy. Henry De Bromhead trans the nine-year-old gelding who has some rock solid form including a third to Sprinter Sacre in the Queen Mother Champion Chase as well as a defeat of the same rival at Sandown in the 2015 Celebration Chase and it does look as if nothing else entered here can bring anything like that sort of form to the table today and if fit for his first run since April he will take all the beating now – unless the real Simonsig is back of course.
One horse worthy of plenty of thought in our race preview has to be Fox Norton (10/3) who hacked up over course and distance on his return to action for trainer Neil Mullholland and has now been moved to Colin Tizzard by his new owners Ann and Alan Potts. Two thirds spots behind Douvan made him look better than average yet the majority still questioned the value of his form but he soon proved how good he can be when winning here by eleven lengths without being asked a serious question after hefty market support, and if he can build on that upped in class he could well be a force to reckon with this afternoon.
Thanks to the wonders of the penalty system in these races poor Top Gamble (6/1) has to give weight away all round but is a top class two miler and should still go well even if success may be a bit beyond him. Kerry Lee’s eight-year-old Presenting gelding has won his last two races with a ten length beating of Champion chaser Dodging Bullets at Newbury in the Game Spirit Chase and a seven length defeat of Sizing Granite at Fairyhouse and he could just be improving fast enough that he can mix it with the big boys this season once they meet at level weights.
These days the Northern based trainers can be ignored among the media hype for Lambourn, but Nicky Richards will hope for some column inches if he can win here with the superbly named Simply Ned (11/1), a decent chaser in his own right but with a bit to find in this standard. What he does have is a fitness edge after a second at Kelso last month and if I owned him I would be sorely tempted to send him on from the off to test the fitness of his better fancied rivals.