Andy Holding is back with eight tips for today's action, with runners at Sandown, Leopardstown and Kempton.
The presence of Irish raider Gerri Colombe adds extra spice to this Grade 1 prize, but whether he deserves to be quite so short in the betting on ground quicker than ideal is open to debate.
Of his four home-based rivals, Balco Coastal looks the chief threat according to the layers, but his position in the market could turn out to be a bit misleading and preference is for MONMIRAL (best price 9/2) and THUNDER ROCK (best price 4/1) based on their proven Graded form over fences.
For different reasons, the pair came out of their race behind the potentially top-class The Real Whacker in the Dipper Chase at Cheltenham last time with great credit and on that form, they are very difficult to split.
The former was the one who offered most resistance to the winner throughout the final half mile and given the numbers from that strongly-run affair were so good, it’s not a bold statement to suggest Paul Nicholls’ gelding sets the standard here today. Outpointed by the high-class Jonbon over two miles on chase debut, his Grade 1 form over hurdles suggest this sort of trip will prove his optimum and anything other than a bold show has to go down as a huge disappointment.
The latter has a bit to find with his old rival on their encounter at Prestbury Park but it’s not beyond the realms of possibility he could turn around the form. Firstly, his yard is in much better form that it was a couple of months ago and secondly, the stiff uphill finish here should also play into his strengths.
A race fit to grace any big stage with virtually all of the big players from this division barring Jonbon missing and, in a race that will surely be run at a helter-skelter pace with a least four confirmed front runners in the field, both SAINT ROI (best price 11/1) and FIL D’OR (best price 20/1) may be the beneficiary of slipstreaming in behind the vapour trail.
The pair first met in a beginners chase at Navan earlier in the campaign with the latter coming out on top, but it was the turn of the former to turn the tables around when they clashed again over today’s C&D last time out.
Settling better than he did at the Co Meath venue, the Willie Mullins-trained gelding seemed to benefit from a more patient ride and with his main market rival blighted by one noticeable error at the final ditch (three out), he grasped the nettle with both hands to ultimately come well clear late on.
Posting a quick time at the Dublin venue, it’s worth pointing out that his number was much superior to stable mate Dysart Dynamo who won over the same C&D the day after and, with conditions ideal for a horse who has a good cruising speed and a decent turn of foot, the son of Coastal Path looks massively underestimated in the market.
Regarding Fil D’or, he can clearly ill afford to make the same mistake he did here 40 days ago, but considering he’s already beaten his old rival and he’s a proper operator at Grade 1 level, he also has a look of being overpriced. Had he not made that untimely mistake last time who knows what might have happened and he’s worth another chance to redeem his reputation.
MAXXUM (NAP) (best price 9/4) never came out of third gear to beat up similar rivals he faces over today’s C&D last time out and with connections seemingly happy to come here and roll the dice again for 59k rather than be totally preoccupied by Cheltenham, the hint should be heeded.
A total revelation since joining his new yard, it’s seems inconceivable now looking back that he somehow managed to get beat off a mark of 99 on his seasonal bow at Punchestown back in October, but since then he’s well and truly left the memories of that day behind.
Sent off odds on in a similar handicap at Navan a month later, the son of Westerner duly hacked up and despite being sent up in distance and raised significantly in the ratings, he produced an even more impressive display over today’s C&D next time.
Despite being in a very competitive environment and up in class, the six-year-old never came off the bridle in beating 26 opponents and the most significant factor about the performance was he managed to run a much quicker time figure than the Grade 1 won by Home On The Lee, who was all out to win his race over the same C&D.
Based on the data from the Dublin venue, there’s a good argument to be made that this improving handicapper should be talked about in terms of the Stayers Hurdle and not the Pertemps, but either way, providing he’s in the same sort of shape he was 38 days ago, that kind of conversation can be saved until another day.
SENESI (best price 7/1) has twice shaped with plenty of promise in strong fillies’ novice events and despite having to take on the might of Godolphin again, she can more than hold her own.
Impressing with the way she finished off her race from the back of the field on debut over tonight’s C&D, she once again found herself with plenty on her plate on her latest encounter at Lingfield, but that didn’t stop her from putting in another power-packed surge late on.
Sectional-wise, her backend work came out favourably compared some highly-regarded fillies and with the experience of two above-average affairs under her belt, she can put her knowledge to good use back at a track she knows well.
CHOLA EMPIRE (best price 7/2) won in the manner of an extremely well-treated horse at Southwell last time out so, even though he faces recent C&D winner Kingdom Come on his home patch, David Simcock’s gelding rates more than a sporting choice to pull off the giant killing act.
Slightly disappointing when sent off favourite on his two previous starts, the son of Territories was once again popular in the market for his latest encounter at the Midland venue and this time he made no mistake. Noted travelled well off a strong gallop turning for home, the four-year-old quickened up in smart fashion to overhaul his rivals inside the final furlong and in doing so, he ended up posting a very fast speed figure for the grade.
Only up slightly in the ratings when the data suggests he should have been handed a bigger penalty, he’s fancied to prove he still remains a horse to keep on side.
BLUENOSE BELLE (best price 10/3) ran out a good winner of a strong race for the grade over tonight’s C&D last time out and even though she faces a stiffer test on paper, her numbers from the other night suggest she should prove equal to the task.
A never-nearer fourth in a better race the time before, the daughter of Noble Mission returned to the Sunbury venue in a slightly weaker contest and, having travelled nicely throughout, she stayed on best of all in the closing stages to land one or two tidy bets.
Clocking by far and away the best speed figure on the seven-race card, Richard Philips’ mare cemented her love affair with tonight’s track and with that vital track knowledge likely to be of some significant come the final analysis, she rates an appealing proposition at the morning odds.