16:10 Cheltenham Thu 14 March 2019
- Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate Handicap Chase (Grade 3) (Class 1)
- 2m 4f 127y, Good to Soft (soft in places)
- 22 Runners
- Surface: Turf
Three-time winner over fences in France (2m3½f-2m6f) prior to joining Nicky Henderson; was conceding 19lb when just out-battled, beaten a head, by today's rival the game Siruh Du Lac (Ballyhill held) over C&D in January (good to soft).
Finished third in the 2017 Supreme Novices' Hurdle; lacks much in the way of experience over fences; finished lame after falling in a 2m5½f Graduation Chase at Haydock in November (on his first start for over 12 months); off since; handicap debut.
Dead-heated for fifth in last year's County Hurdle; a shade fortunate to score on his chasing debut at Chepstow (2m3½f) in October, but enters the equation based upon his excellent C&D third to Kildisart (good to soft) in January.
Classy hurdler (2017 Lanzarote winner); hasn't quite reached that level over fences, albeit wore down Duke Of Navan when winning here (2m, good) in October; didn't stay the 3m trip at Kempton latest; handles most conditions.
Letters became a regular feature in his form figures earlier this season and that's never a positive. However, he remains feasibly handicapped, is clearly effective at this track and has run well back from a break in the past; can't totally dismiss.
2016 Ryanair Chase second; without a win since kicking off his 2016/17 season with a Grade 1 success in the JN Wine Champion Chase (3m, Down Royal); continues to slip down the weights and evidently is nowhere remotely near that force of old.
Likeable type; a winner of 5 of his 15 starts (3-7 over fences); appreciates plenty of cut underfoot but probably strongest over the minimum trip and appears high enough in the handicap at present; others preferred.
Finished down the field (seventh) in last year's Grade 1 JLT; Grade 2 winner as a novice in an incident packed race at Ayr (2m4f+) the following month; hasn't convinced since sent handicapping, admittedly racing exclusively over 2m.
Beat stablemate Acapella Bourgeois when scoring at Navan (2m4f, soft) in December 2017 but on the whole this ex-French racer hasn't quite clicked for Willie Mullins; finished seventh of 18 to Invitation Only in Gowran's 3m1f Theyestes Chase latest.
Has tended to raise his game at the Cheltenham Festival, runner-up in the Fred Winter (2015), the Close Brothers' (2016), and also finished 7¾L third to Road To Respect in this race in 2017; first run since wind surgery.
Game as a pebble when fending off today's rival Janika (and Ballyhill) over C&D in January (good to soft); a fraction more on his plate seeking the four-timer but proven on a soft surface and with such a willing attitude commands the utmost respect.
Left Tom George for £12,000 in August 2018 as a three-time winner from nine starts over fences, most latterly over 2m5f (soft) at Newton Abbot (April 2018); faces a very tough task on return to action from a 325-day absence; stable debut.
Prominent racer; has under-performed since winning a small-field affair at Warwick (2m4f, good) in October; difficult to identify any possible reason for a revival; pulled up in the Close Brothers' Novices' Handicap at the 2017 Cheltenham Festival.
Finished well from off the pace to squeeze into sixth place in the 2m Grand Annual in 2018; took advantage of an ease in the weights to score at Chepstow (2m3f, soft) in December and solid since; others now appear better handicapped.
Grade 2 C&D winner for Harry Fry in April 2016; finished in mid-division off a 7lb higher mark in this contest in 2017; joined Lucinda Russell for £40,000 in September 2018 but has yet to really fire (0-3).
Made a pleasing start to his chasing career winning three on the bounce as a novice (including a Grade 2); has struggled to make his mark in handicap company (Rehearsal Chase/Tommy Whittle) post wind surgery; blinkers applied seeking a revival.
Went down all guns blazing in a tussle for the 2017 Grand Annual (second); hasn't seen masses of racing since; handily enough weighted off a mark of 137 and shaped with more verve until unseating his rider four out at Ludlow (2m4f) latest.
Made all for a confidence boosting long odds-on win at Ludlow (2m4f, good) last month and on the face of things is a relatively progressive young chaser; has coped with the hustle and bustle of big fields over hurdles previously.
Didn't quite stay the 3m1f trip when finishing ninth of 18 in the Ultima at the 2018 Festival, but ran well in the BetVictor Gold Cup (fifth) in November; ridden out to justify favouritism in a Class 2 handicap at Chepstow (2m) latest.
Admirable veteran; Grade 3 BetVictor Gold Cup winner in 2017; beaten 1¾L by The Storyteller (King's Odyssey third) in this race last year; not so effective this season but competitively weighted and arrives fresh from an 82-day absence.
Consistent, albeit without a win since scoring in novice company (handicap) over C&D in January 2016; has competed in this race in each of the past two seasons, finishing 6¾L third to The Storyteller (Splash Of Ginge second) last year.
Clicked over fences for his new trainer (formerly with Willie Mullins) in late to mid December with back-to-back wins at Carlisle (2m5f) and Haydock (2m4f+); trip excuse latest; open to further improvement with his stable steadily hitting top form.
Last Year's Winner
|T: G ElliottJ: D N Russell|
Janika (3/1), Siruh Du Lac (9/2), Spiritofthegames (6/1), Eamon An Cnoic (10/1), River Wylde (10/1), Kalondra (12/1), Didero Vallis (16/1), Doitforthevillage (16/1), Ballyhill (16/1), Azzerti (20/1), Modus (20/1), Romain De Senam (20/1), King's Odyssey (20/1), Splash of Ginge (25/1), Gardefort (28/1), Bouvreuil (33/1), Polidam (33/1), Valseur Lido (33/1), Testify (33/1), Bigmartre (40/1), Kauto Riko (66/1), Some Buckle (66/1), Templehills (100/1), Voix D'Eau (100/1)
- Eamon An Cnoic
- Didero Vallis
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