There is probably more to come from Definitly Red, who shaped with promise over hurdles behind Baradari at Haydock before winning a modest heat on his chasing debut at Catterick, while Silsol was swept aside by Seeyouatmidnight at Carlisle and that performance received a boost when his conqueror scored impressively at Cheltenham.
However, this looks a great opportunity for Black Hercules to enhance his Cheltenham Festival aspirations, with the National Hunt Chase a primary target.
The Bowen stable have found some form in recent times with a well-backed winner on Welsh National day and a bumper scorer at Ludlow last week and their eight-year-old may be worth supporting to score at a double-figure price.
Isaacstown Lad probably wouldn’t be running here if he had stood up at Carlisle two starts ago in a similar qualifier for the series final in March and he was back to form with a smooth Haydock win last time. He looks a chief threat along with Ludlow scorer Arctic Gold, who relished the step up in trip at Ludlow last time, while Ffos Las-lover Pobbles Bay was raised 7lb for a narrow win there last time and probably needs to improve again.
The selection cost a good few quid from the Irish point-to-point field so was clearly highly-regarded from an early age, and he justified the hype with a cosy two-length defeat of a subsequent winner on his rules debut at the Midlands venue.
The Willie Mullins-duo will provide stiff opposition although Thomas Hobson will need to hurdle with more proficiency than he has done on occasion. Open Eagle is up in trip after failing to cope with Altior’s burst of speed at Kempton over Christmas. He travelled like the best horse that day and is highly respected but may find Born Survivor too strong at today’s trip.
Afonso De Sousa may prove a tougher adversary. The northern raider looked like his first run for nine months would bring him on at Wolverhampton last time and connections continue to dispense with the hood and cheekpieces he has worn previously.
In contrast, Our Channel sports the pieces again after racing awkwardly at Lingfield in a small-field mile conditions event.
Although Midnight Prayer missed the Welsh National with a dirty scope, he wouldn’t be running if all was not well, but the fact Wayne Hutchinson prefers to maintain his partnership with Sego Success narrowly tips the balance in the eight-year-old’s favour. The combination of a switch in tactics to front running and the introduction of cheekpieces proved the catalyst to an impressive Doncaster victory before Christmas for King’s chaser who won a Listed novices’ chase on this card 12 months ago to prove he doesn’t suffer from any festive excesses.
Given recent results, the Nicholls-trained Vivaldi Collonges is respected following his stylish Kelso triumph, while De Kerry Man gave a bold sight at Cheltenham before capsizing three from home in a decent race last time. Algernon Pazham appeared to hate the National fences at Aintree and could be more a player at this more orthodox track, but the vote goes to Sego Sucess.