Saturday October 30, 2021
When & Where: 3.05 Wetherby
First prize: £56,950
TV: ITV4 & Racing TV (426)
One of the best chasers around when operating at the top of his game but comes with a Timeform 'squiggle' these days having been pulled-up at Kempton in last year's King George and suffered the same fate a couple of months later at Ascot. Plenty to prove all over again but his trainer has pulled off similar stunts with top jumpers in the past and he was seriously impressive first time out in this event 12 months ago. Hard to recommend at short prices, either way.
Really filled out and progressed quite markedly last season, producing a string of consistent efforts to end the campaign with a lofty rating. Hard to know whether he was slightly over the top by the time he was second (beaten 26 lengths) to Clan Des Obeaux at Aintree in April and there's a fair chance he's a bit better than that bare form he was able to show there. Certainly gets the trip well enough and he's also proven going right and left-handed. Hard to knock him.
Ran four times over fences last season, winning three including the Scottish Grand National at Ayr when last seen. Subsequent rise in the handicaps means he could be caught between a rock and a hard place but Aintree likely to be the main target for a horse with "endless stamina", according to his trainer. Likely to be outpaced and a shade outclassed as well.
Good record at the course, following a novice hurdle second in 2019 and two novice chase wins early last season. Went on to win Grade One Kauto Star at Kempton on Boxing Day and though unable to add to his tally afterwards, he mixed in the top novice races. Likely to be fit and firing given that track record and trainer MO. Jumps well and races prominently so another bold bid can definitely be expected.
Top-class juvenile hurdle winner a couple of seasons back but didn't quite make the grade in open company over timber before switching to fences last season. Won three times in total before ending campaign with a good second in the Marsh at Cheltenham then a disappointing run when bursting a blood vessel at Aintree. Failed to cope with chasing newcomer Bravemansgame at Newton Abbot recently but was having to concede that very smart prospect almost a stone so loads of positives to take from it. This was one of three weekend options, so intriguing he comes here.
Started out over fences rated just 109 last August so already a pretty remarkable success story. Surely produced another career-best display when beaten a head by Chirico Vallis on his Chepstow comeback at the start of the month and probably deserves a crack at something like this on that evidence. Still only five and possibly not reached peak quite yet, though a major handicap might be more likely to fall his way than this Graded contest.
Tired fifth in this event in 2019 before returning to win the Rowland Meyrick that Christmas. Only seen twice since, third in the 2020 Cotswold Chase and then pulling up in a French Grade Two over hurdles this spring. Hard to know quite where he is physically but handicapper has downgraded him from 164 to 156 which could be a bit more realistic and he'll need to resume right up at his best to be a major factor against the likes of Cyrname, Shan Blue and Clondaw Castle.
Cyrname could start a very short price as he bids to go back-to-back in this race on his seasonal return and chances are he'll win with a little to spare if able to bring something close to his A-game.
However, he looked a shadow of his former self when failing to complete on his final couple of starts last season and can't be recommended with any kind of confidence.
Clondaw Castle made admirable progress throughout the last campaign and could have been over the top slightly despite being kept relatively fresh for Aintree having missed Cheltenham in the spring.
However, the case for SHAN BLUE is slightly more compelling as he's so good around here, goes well fresh and still has untapped potential as a three-miler. The Skeltons will be certain to have him cherry-ripe and the rain forecast in the build-up will be more than welcome. Anything north of 4/1 looks a very fair price
Updated at 1500 BST on 28/10/21
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