Last year’s winner Many Clouds (beat Smad Place) was beaten twenty five lengths in the Gold Cup before landing the Grand National. He appears the chief danger but clearly has plenty of ground to make up on Djakadam from their running here in March.
Irish Cavalier and Tenor Nivernais both boast plenty of course form and rate big dangers with conditions likely to suit. The former was outclassed in the King George but had previously travelled powerfully before finding disappointingly little in the Paddy Power Gold Cup. His yard were all wrong at that stage of the season and he will relish this drop in class.
Tenor Nivernais copes well with testing ground and has also finished in arrears of Village Vic this term so looks ideal frame material, especially if the forecast rain hits Prestbury Park.
Good-ground lover Shantou Village hammered CHAMPERS ON ICE when they met here last November and the form has been boosted by the exploits of the latter. The Pipe stable weren’t in great form when they met for the first time and their gelding could be some value to reverse placings on different ground today.
Deep ground won’t concern Charmix who ploughed through soft conditions at Newbury to score by 17l last time.
Like Ptit Zig, Camping Ground capsized in the Peterborough Chase, but he redeemed himself in style in a Grade 2 Hurdle at this venue last time. He is yet to tackle three miles but could be a tough horse to pass if allowed to dictate.
In a move often utilised by his stable, Ptit Zig strives to put his campaign back on track after a troubled season over fences. He should enjoy this test a good deal more than recent excursions over the larger obstacles but it is open to question whether he is still good enough to trouble the main protagonists.
The doughty Smart Talk was a game scorer at Haydock where she dominated from the front over further, however, she drops in trip here and could be vulnerable to last year’s winner INTENSE TANGO who beat Pass The Time by 3l last year and has warmed up for a repeat bid with two excellent all-weather efforts.
The drying conditions should suit the selection who might just boast a little more natural speed than some of today’s rivals.
He is a grinder with speed and may have too much in the closing stages for Up For Review who was admittedly highly impressive at Punchestown (3m) on heavy ground. He is impossible to knock on what he’s achieved over hurdles, especially as the better ground is no issue, and preference between the two can only be marginal.
Some may feel he has plenty on with top weight, but he is only conceding 8lb to a 12-year-old in Aachen and, with the exception of Le Mercurey, Ziga Boy and possibly Dolatulo, there appears a lack of well-handicapped rivals in the field.
Le Mercurey could prove a huge threat given he ran creditably in a warm Cheltenham novice chase behind Seeyouatmidnight on New Year’s day, but the trip is a slight concern, while this is a much stiffer examination of Ziga Boy after his course and distance romp here last time.
Although there are 15 runners and three places on offer, the sponsors are happy to lay four places so course stalwart IKORODU ROAD is worthy of a small each-way play bet at 20/1.