A quick look at the roll of honour of some of the recent winners such as Trabolgan, Denman, Bostons Angel, Bobs Worth, Lord Windermere, Don Poli, Blaklion, and Presenting Percy, the first thing to notice is that this three-mile Grade 1 for novices is usually won by out-and-out stayers rather than the sexy, Fancy Dan types who sometimes flatter to deceive and that trend is worth noting when casting the eye over this season’s potential big players.

Ante post favourite Champ is the obvious starting point and he’s a horse that’s clearly going to divide opinion. Capable of breath-taking performances, Nicky Henderson’s inmate has suffered the odd bump in the road along the way and it’s that slight vulnerability that makes him a dodgy proposition at a relatively short price - particularly this far away from the meeting. Apart from the odd novicey mistake here and there in his first two outings over fences, the eight-year-old had jumped well by and large, so it has to be a little disconcerting to see him hit the deck in the manner he did at the second last in the Dipper Chase on his first attempt over the famous Cheltenham fences. Whether it was down to lack of concentration or just poor technique (looked like it was probably more the former), only his next race will give us the proper answers, but either way, it’s probably not too unfair to pop him into the Might Bite tray for the time being rather the sturdier profile of Trabolgan if you were going to compare him to the same stable’s previous winners of this race.

MINELLA INDO (best price 7-1), on the other hand, isn’t as gifted as his main market rival in the sense he doesn’t possess the same silky smooth engine, but what he may lack in terms of latent talent, he more than makes up for with bucket loads of stamina and a will to win which is vital when it comes to getting over the line at the Cheltenham Festival. Those attributes were never more apparent than his tenacious display in the Albert Bartlett last season when he stuck on gamely to see off a stellar field despite being on the sharp end throughout, and he went on to prove that 50-1 shock was no fluke by following up in the Punchestown equivalent on his final start of the campaign a month later. Those victories, to coin a phrases, were a real bonus, because Henry De Bromhead’s inmate has always been regarded as a chasing prospect and connections wasted no time in sending him straight over fences this season. Although beaten on his first outing at Gowran, a defeat at the hands of the talented Laurina could hardly be described as a disaster, and in any case, the 2m4f journey was always going to be an insufficient test for a horse off the back of a 206-day break. Upped to three miles for his latest encounter, the strapping son of Beat Hollow made no mistake in a beginners’ chase at Navan and although many would have been slightly underwhelmed by his relatively narrow margin of victory, his time figure suggested he performed to a higher level than appeared at first glance. Moreover, his jumping was a joy to behold – bold and brave when long and neat and tidy when in tight to the boards - and he now heads straight to the Festival with all guns blazing. A totally different model to Monalee, who represented the same connections in the RSA several years ago, the seven-year-old appeals as just the type for the demands of a contest that is often described as ‘brutal’.

Minella Indo - 1pt @ 7/1

Another who makes quite a bit of appeal at this stage is SAM BROWN (NRNB 20-1) who made it 2-2 over fences with his latest victory in a well-contest Grade 2 at Haydock. Casting aside doubts that a quick turnaround from a success only 11 days previously may find him out, Anthony Honeyball’s gelding impressed with the way powered clear of three above-average rivals in the closing stages having looked in trouble down the back straight and on the evidence of that performance both visually and on the clock, stamina is his number one attribute. The only part of his profile which is a cause for concern from an ante-post perspective is that all his best form has taken place on a soft surface and unless we get a Festival similar to the one we had last season, he might not even make the gig. That said, Skybet have recently introduced the non-runner, no bet offer that eradicates any chance of doing your cash on a none participation due to unsuitable ground, so his current quote of 20-1 with the Leeds-based firm is worth taking even if he doesn’t line up here or maybe takes an alternative engagement in the National Hunt Chase (16-1 in the ante-posts lists for that contest).

Looking at some of the others prominent in the ante-post lists, Battleoverdoyen has done very little wrong in highlighting his growing talents over fences, but he had a similar background over hurdles last season before completely bombing out in his first real acid test in the Ballymore at the Festival. Allaho has to be of some interest as he ties in with several form lines involving Minella Indo and if he comes forward as expected from his chasing debut at Leopardstown when he looked the winner for majority of the journey, his current odds of 16-1 appear on the large side. Stable mate Faugheen needs no introduction being a dual Festival winner, but whether a race of this nature is within his range at the ripe old age of 12 is opening to serious question (no winner of the race aged beyond nine). Another of the Mullins crew, Carefully Selected, seems likely to go down the National Hunt Chase route, while we haven’t seen Next Destination for the thick end of two years. Slate House won the best UK three-mile novice chase of the season so far at Kempton and he does have plenty of Cheltenham experience so he has to be a consideration of sorts, while the runner-up that day, Black Op, always leaves the impression he’s better equipped for trips short of three miles, particularly on a demanding track.

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Sam Brown - 0.5pts e/w @ 20/1