Pond House has been synonymous with this fixture for decades, so all of their runners must be given the utmost respect. Bookmakers have certainly done that by going as short as they dare withLA VATICANE(best price 7/2) in the curtain raiser to the Open meeting, but even the top price 7/2 on offer could still turn out to be a generous quote given how much potential this French-bred has in his locker. The way he tanked his way through his only start over hurdles at Kempton last season suggests David Pipe’s charge has a serious engine underneath the bonnet, and having had plenty of experience jumping fences back in his native land, the son of Turgeon has all the tools to make a mockery of his current mark.
La Vaticane - 1pt @ 7/2
Ben Pauling can do little wrong at the moment, so armed with the knowledge that all his horses are fit and flying, a chance is worth taking that A HARE BREATH(best price 6/1) can defy a 695-day layoff on his first outing for the Bourton-On-The-Water handler. A former point-to-point winner, the son of Alkaadhem put up a couple of excellent performances in above-average novice hurdles when trained by Nick Gifford two seasons ago, but he’s clearly had his problems in the interim - hence the huge absence from the racecourse. Good enough to get with four lengths of Irving on his first outing under rules at Ascot, he followed up that effort with an equally promising display behind Josses Hill in a white-hot contest at Newbury when last seen, and considering that pair are now recognised as genuine Grade 1 performers, it just shows the level he was running at until injury intervened. Whether he’s capable of running to a similar standard after the long sabbatical is the sixty-four thousand dollar question, but there’s no denying that he’s potentially very well treated on the pick of his old form if somewhere near his best.