Stuart Williams has an in-depth look at the Betway Bowl at Aintree on Thursday.
Betway Bowl Chase
Betway Bowl Chase Preview
It's fair to say that this year's Betway Bowl is a fascinating contest with dual King George hero Clan Des Obeaux, Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Native River, and dual Grand National hero Tiger Roll set to do battle on Merseyside tomorrow.
The former will look to regain the winning thread for his eleven time champion trainer Paul Nicholls, whom is the leading trainer in the contest with four previous victories courtesy of See More Business (2000), What a Friend (2010), and Silviniaco Conti, whom landed back-to-back renewals in 2014 and 2015.
The decision to withdraw Tiger Roll from Saturday's main event may look foolish should the evergreen eleven-year-old go close in this contest, which is a distinct possibility given the manner in which he glided around Prestbury Park to record a remarkable fifth Cheltenham Festival success last month.
Cheltenham Gold Cup fourth Native River will begin his new alliance with Jonjo O'Neill Jr following the retirement of Richard Johnson, and champion jockey Brian Hughes will hope to make his trip south a successful one with King George VI runner-up Waiting Patiently, whom is already a Grade 1 winner by virtue of his success in the 2018 Betfair Ascot Chase.
Clondaw Castle and Mister Fisher are potential improvers at this trip and add further intrigue to this Grade 1 contest.
So, without further ado, let's take a closer look at all nine contenders whom will go to post at 2.50 tomorrow.
Betway Bowl Chase Runners
CLAN DES OBEAUX:
Clan Des Obeaux will attempt to make it third time lucky in this contest having placed third in 2018 and second in 2019.
Yet to get his head in front this season having placed second in the Betfair Chase, third in the King George VI Chase and second in the Denman Chase last time out, Clan Des Obeaux will sport first-time cheekpieces following his defeat at Newbury, which comes as no surprise given that Harry Cobden felt that he wasn't putting his best foot forwards after jumping the final fence upsides his stablemate Secret Investor in February.
Five of his eight previous victories - including his point-to-point - came on decent ground and no trainer can better Paul Nicholls' record in this race, as alluded too previously. However, Clan Des Obeaux's form-figures on a left-handed track read 4124123452822 compared to 51211213 on right-handed courses, and he hasn't won a race going anti-clockwise since landing a 2m5f Graduation Chase at Haydock in November 2017.
Indeed, his two King George victories are undoubtedly his best career performances and it's fair to say that he hasn't come close to reproducing that level of form elsewhere, and he may have to run up to his best form given that Native River and Tiger Roll, whom are his closest market rivals at the time of writing, have both displayed that the fire still burns brightly in recent months in spite of their age and battle scars.
That said, they both ran at Cheltenham a matter of weeks ago and Clan Des Obeaux has a freshness advantage tomorrow. However, both of those rivals have proven their ability at Aintree, and he arguably has bigger questions to answer.
Tiger Roll hasn't competed over regulation fences since pulling-up in the 2017 Clonmel Oil Chase, however, he clearly relishes Aintree as a dual Grand National hero and he roared back to form with a facile success in the Cross County Chase at last month's Cheltenham Festival - recording a remarkable fifth Festival success in process.
Connections had already pulled the the popular eleven-year-old out of the Grand National prior to Cheltenham as they felt that he was harshly treated by the handicapper. However, he will almost certainly have to perform up to that mark in order to be competitive in this company should his opposition run up to form, and a bold run in this contest may leave connections wondering what may have been.
This trip is arguably on the short side for Tiger Roll, especially on better ground - for all that he enjoys a sound surface. I would imagine that Jack Kennedy will be keen to buck out prominently and get Tiger Roll into a good rhythm and, if he can get the better of Native River in the early exchanges, it will be interesting to see just how much of lead he will able to accumulate.
Jonjo O'Neill Jr will take over on 2018 Cheltenham Gold Cup hero Native River following the shock retirement of trusty partner Richard Johnson last weekend. However, O'Neill did steer the Brocade Racing owned eleven-year-old to success in the 2020 Denman Chase, and he is seemingly a very simple ride.
Native River is 2-3 over this course and distance having landed the 2016 Grade 1 Mildmay Novices' Chase and the Grade 2 Many Clouds Chase in December 2019, and there was no shame in placing third in last year's renewal of the latter contest given the sheer amount of fences that were omitted.
The ground may be a shade quicker than ideal and the presence of Tiger Roll may prevent Jonjo O'Neill from dictating the race at his leisure. However, a strongly run race is clearly no bad thing given that he was outpaced before running-on into fourth in last months Cheltenham Gold Cup, and another bold effort is a distinct possibility.
Waiting Patiently is lightly raced for his age and he demonstrated that the fire still burns brightly when placing second in the King George VI Chase following a 385 day absence.
Ruth Jefferson's stable star backed-up that effort with a staying-on third placed finish behind First Flow and Politologue in the Grade 1 Clarence House Chase at Ascot in January, and the 75 day break since is most certainly in his favour given that he boasts a record of 211111U232 following an absence of 52 days or more.
Waiting Patiently placed third behind subsequent Ryanair Chase scorer Min and subsequent Champion Chaser Politologue in the 2019 Melling Chase on his only previous visit to Aintree, and his strong finishing effort in the King George would suggest that stepping back-up in trip is the right way to go.
I'm sure that connections would prefer a bit more juice in the ground for all that he should handle conditions. However, he is already a Grade 1 winner by virtue of his success in the 2018 Betfair Ascot Chase and his runner-up effort at Kempton puts him firmly in the mix.
Clondaw Castle seemingly relished the step-up to 3 miles when landing the traditionally competitive Close Brothers Handicap Chase at Kempton (under 11-8) in February and Tom George was quick to nominate this race as a future target in the immediate aftermath of that success.
Interestingly, this isn't the first time that Tom George has saddled a horse in that Kempton contest prior to lining-up in this Grade 1 heat, as he saddled his galant grey Nacarat to place third in that same Kempton contest prior to plundering this Grade 1 prize in 2011.
It's fair to say that Clondaw Castle appears to be improving with age and seven of his nine victories - including his second point-to-point - have come on decent ground, including his success at Kempton in February.
That was Clondaw Castle's first outing over 3 miles under rules (also won a good ground 3 mile point-to-point) and he remains completely unexposed over staying trips, which renders him a fascinating contender given the exposed status of those towards the head of the betting.
An official rating of 160 puts him firmly in the mix and he demonstrated his liking for the track when placing second in the Grade 2 Old Roan Chase (2m4f) on soft ground in October. He is therefore a very lively contender whom should not be underestimated.
Mister Fisher ran far better than the bare form would suggest when pulling-up in the Ryanair Chase at Cheltenham last month, and both and trainer, Nicky Henderson, and jockey, Nico De Boinville, were quick to suggest that 3 miles may see him to better effect.
Indeed, De Boinville remarked that Mister Fisher was on his limit throughout - which may explain a few sketchy jumps - given the ferocious pace set by Rachael Blackmore on the hugely impressive victor Allaho, and Mister Fisher briefly looked as though he may give the eventual winner some level of competition prior to a significant mistake at three from home.
It was a wise move to pull-up when his chance was gone as he was spared a slog up the gruelling Cheltenham hill which may well pay dividends tomorrow, especially as he will have ideal ground conditions on his first foray over 3 miles.
Thirteenth in the Grade 2 bumper at this meeting in 2018 on his only previous visit to Aintree, Mister Fisher will have the tactical speed to lay up in the early exchanges and could easily be ready to pounce if those in front go to hard, and his Grade 2 success in the rescheduled Peterborough Chase in December suggested that he was just beginning to fulfil the potential that he has always hinted at.
Indeed, it's entirely possible that he is just beginning to hit the peak of his powers at the age of seven, and it's worth nothing that he gave the aforementioned Clondaw Castle 3lbs and a 7 lengths beating on at Cheltenham in December, and that form is obviously solid given what Tom George's charge has achieved subsequently.
There a plenty of positives regarding the Seven Barrows inmate and he could easily prove to be a very big player.
Paul Nicholls has an intriguing second string to his bow in the form of Real Steal, whom burst a blood vessel when pulling-up in the King George VI Chase at Kempton in December and has been given plenty of time to recover from that run, which is no bad thing given his decent record when fresh.
The experienced eight-year-old ran well to a point in the 2020 Gold Cup and clearly connections feel that he is worth persisting with over staying trips. However, a glance at his form suggests that he is seen to best effect on right-handed tracks, and there will be no hiding places regarding stamina given the presence of Native River.
The decent ground will suit, however, and Paul Nicholls has an impressive knack of tailoring his training routines to eke out the best in fragile but talented inmates. Therefore Real Steal could easily outperform market expectations.
Last months Gold Cup eighth is without a success since January 2019 and he is yet to taste victory over a trip exceeding two-miles-and-five furlongs for Aso.
That said, he was only beaten a neck (under top weight 11-12) by a well handicapped rival at Warwick in February and he was far from disgraced when chasing home red-hot Grand National favourite Cloth Cap in the Listed bet365 Premier Chase at Kelso in March. However, it goes without saying that more will be required in these significantly deeper waters.
Militarian hasn't been sighted since a distant eighth placed finish in the Grade 3 Caspain Caviar Gold Cup at Cheltenham in December and he looks totally outclassed in this company.
Indeed, Andrew Martin's hardy eleven-year-old has upwards of 24lbs to find with his eight rivals tomorrow and he hasn't got his head in front since November 2019. He is therefore very hard to fancy.
Paul Nicholls appears to have targeted this meeting and Clan Des Obeaux is undoubtedly a worthy favourite with the first-time cheekpieces applied. While Tiger Roll is a truly fascinating contender given his abundant class and love affair with Aintree, however, it's hard to know what to expect given that he hasn't been seen over regulation fences since October 2017.
The admirable Native River may find this an inadequate test of stamina on decent ground, and Waiting Patiently would probably make greater appeal judged on his runner-up effort in the King George VI Chase.
However, the top four in the betting may prove vulnerable to improving, younger rivals, and both CLONDAW CASTLE and MISTER FISHER make fair appeal at the prices.
The former appears to have been trained with this race in mind. While the latter was spared a tough race when pulling-up in the Cotswolds last month and seems to be entering the peak of his career. Both are totally unexposed over staying trips and will appreciate the decent ground that they will encounter tomorrow.
The presence of Tiger Roll and Native River could set this race up for those whom travel off the pace and both possess the tactical speed to hold a position. The flat track will also be to their liking.