There’s always plenty in with chances in this prestigious show-stopper – but for me you’re always looking for the second-season type who can go on to better things later in the season.
Here’s my view on the main fancies in a race where Paddy is paying the first 5 home.
Trainer Jamie Snowden seems confident that he’s going to run a big race. He’s an improving handicapper (above) but doesn’t yet strike me as the type of second-season chaser who can go on to better things. Has to improve further in my book.
Warmed up for this with a win over hurdles last month and signed off last season with a Grade 2 win in the Silver Trophy Chase at the track. A jumping error cost him his chance in the race Present View won at the Festival. If he gets his jumping together he could give him more to think about this time.
Jonjo O’Neill’s runner may be 17 lb higher than when winning last year but keeps on winning at Cheltenham. Won the same prep race at the track last month that he won last season and just never seems to run a bad race at the Cotswolds. Must have each-way claims.
Met trouble in running when second to Present View at the Festival last March in the Listed Novices’ Chase with Evan Williams’ Buywise back in fifth.
Has had two runs over hurdles since then with maybe a view to protecting his mark but is still 0-9 over fences. My gut feeling is that well-handicapped horses tend to overcome trouble in running.
Fell in this contest last year when trained by Emma Lavelle – but runs for David Pipe now. The Pond House stable have some record in this race and he sticks out as a horse that could have plenty of improvement in him after a relatively light campaign (just four runs) last year.
Improved to win the Munster National but the form of the placed horses hasn’t stood up. An improving six-year-old but it’s a fair ask in his fourth big handicap of the season already. Charles Byrnes won’t be sending him over for the day out.
Nicky Henderson’s runner looks the likely winner to me. He’s the class horse in the race and would have been a long way ahead of all of these as a hurdler. His jumping last season was only okay but he was competing at the top level in condition chases. Even though this is a competitive handicap he’ll still have time to find his feet in the middle part of the race and come back on the bridle as the race gets serious.
The stats may point to a lower-rated runner but when I won on Al Ferof in 2012 he carried 11-8 and was rated 159. Oscar Whisky could defy the odds again.