A well known and popular chase won twice in the last eight years by Colin Tizzard with Cannington Brook in 2011 and 2012 though sadly he is without a runner this season having pulled out his early entry. looking at the form book and the prices as always and Aidan Coleman has a healthy 17% strike rate when riding for Jonjo O’Neill’s Upswing (14/1 Each Way) looks solid each way value on his better form. He finished second to Sausalito Sunrise at Cheltenham off a pound higher in November last year and although not at his best so far this season, his stable are only recently coming back to top form. He did jump badly when pulled up last time but will have been extensively schooled at Jackdaws Castle ever since ad if he has ironed out those issues he is undoubtedly well weighted here.
Malcolm Jefferson is a trainer in red-hot form, and he has the hat trick seeking Trickaway (9/1) in here after wins at Southwell and Kelso, the first in May, and more recently on the fifth of November when he quickly put three and a half lengths of daylight between himself and his nearest pursuers. That form was probably not good enough to win a race of this caliber, but he seems to be improving race on race, and may yet be able to shrug off the extra four pounds the handicapper has decided to lumber him with on Saturday.
When the likeable Sean Bowen rides for his father Peter it is usually worth a second look and they team up with Berea Boru (25/1) here who won three in a row over fences at Chepstow (twice) and Ffos Las, though all three were over further than this and on heavy ground so stamina seems to be his strong point. When you add in two wins over hurdles, also on heavy ground and you get a good clue to his ideal racing conditions and with the going already soft and the possibility of further rain he could yet turn in to a very serious and possibly forgotten challenger.
Moving on to the Ladies next and Venetia Williams has Yala Enki (7/1) in here and has he is only a baby at the age of six, it seems reasonable to expect there may be further improvement to come. He has only raced over fences on eight occasions, winning two of them (at Lyon Parilly and Fontainebleau when trained in France), plus three second places and a third), but he has been campaigned exclusively over hurdles by his new handler, making his entry in this race all the more interesting. With a third over hurdles here to put him straight last month and a handicap rating of 139 he could be well in here and is certainly one of the more intriguing entries at this stage.
With Dan Skelton very much the man of the moment it is no great shock to see Corrin Wood (13/2) near the head of the betting and the nine-year-old has placed in his last two races with a second at Cheltenham and a third at Chepstow. Both races have been over further than this and there is a question mark over his speed for this trip but he has been well backed and deserves his place here for that reason alone.
Meanwhile, Kerry Lee isn’t finding this season quite as easy as last and is struggling for winners recently, but in Russe Blanc (33/1) she has a horse more than capable of winning this even if he was pulled up last time out at Fontwell and the time before at Fairyhouse. Another who can’t have the ground too soft and whose connections will be praying for rain, he was put up twelve pounds after winning the Classic Chase at Warwick in January and has suffered n all three races since off his higher ratings. In all honesty, he may yet need to drop a few more pounds before he wins again, but if it turns in to a slog in the mud he still needs to be included in our calculations.