Aso has twice finished placed in the Ryanair Chase at the Cheltenham Festival but didn’t look the force of old last season. Won on the New Course on New Year’s Day 2019 off this mark on his last go in a handicap, but vulnerable to younger and more progressive rivals.
Simply The Betts enjoyed an excellent campaign last season, meeting with defeat just once over fences. His victories included a red-hot novice handicap on Cheltenham Trials Day and the Plate at the Festival (both on the New Course at around this trip). More to come still and holds leading claims.
Mister Fisher is a useful hurdler who raised his game when sent chasing over fences last season, winning a novice over this trip on the New Course and a Grade 2 over two miles at Doncaster. Finished a fair fourth in the Grade 1 Marsh Novices’ Chase at the Cheltenham Festival when last seen and respected now sent handicapping.
Al Dancer fell a bit shy of the top novice chasers last season and was beaten a length by Mister Fisher at Doncaster before finishing a distant fifth in the Arkle at the Cheltenham Festival. Made a successful return at Newton Abbot when upped to two miles and five furlongs, keeping on well, and that effort entitles him to be in the mix here.
Slate House won here on his reappearance last year and then fell at the second-last in this when looking a big threat. Bounced back with two victories (including in the Grade 1 Kauto Star at Kempton) and even though he was well beaten here on his final two starts of the campaign it would be folly to rule him out.
Happy Diva is a likeable mare who took this off an 8 lb lower mark last season and signed off for the campaign with a fantastic second to Simply The Betts in the Plate here at the Festival. Shaped as if needing the run on her return at Wetherby last month and could go well with that under her belt.
Siruh du Lac went unbeaten through the 2018/19 season, completing the four-timer with victory in the Plate at the Festival. Was only seen twice last season, but still held every chance in the Plate before he fell at the second-last. A very interesting contender starting out for his new yard having undergone a wind operation.
Spiritofthegames twice finished runner-up in handicaps on the New Course last season before producing a creditable performance when sixth behind Simply The Betts in the Plate on his final start. Doesn’t have any margin for error off this mark, though, and others are preferred.
Sint Sonnet showed useful form in France, notably winning a listed hurdle, and easily won a Catterick novice chase at odds of 1/5 on his first start for this yard. Acquitted himself well when markedly upped in class in the Grade 1 Marsh Novices’ Chase at the Cheltenham Festival when last seen, holding every chance on the turn for home, and retains stacks of potential. Big player.
Domaine de L’Isle was a big improver last season and racked up a hat-trick in handicap chases around the turn of the year. Should be all the better for last month’s return over hurdles and he could still have a bit more to offer over fences.
Brelan D’As was only narrowly denied behind Happy Diva off a 5 lb lower mark in this last year and can be excused his subsequent effort in the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup here on the New Course as he all but came down three out when yet to challenge. Interesting contender on his return to action.
Kauto Riko excelled himself when runner-up in the Peterborough Chase on his reappearance last season and also ran with credit when second in a listed race at Kelso. However, he struggled in the Plate on his final start, and even though he has been given a bit of help from the handicapper others make more appeal.
Fidux finished second in the Summer Plate at Market Rasen in July before winning a weaker handicap at the same course last month, showing a good attitude to prevail. This is clearly much more competitive, though, and others are likely to prove too strong.
Pinson du Rheu showed fairly useful form in France, proving successful at Cagnes-sur-Mer last November. Fell when last seen in May and this is a very tough starting point on his debut for a new stable.
The Russian Doyen has been lightly raced in recent seasons, seen just twice since finishing fourth in the novice handicap chase at the 2019 Cheltenham Festival. Shaped as if retaining ability when third on last month’s return over hurdles at Fontwell. Wouldn’t dismiss, though he did appear to have a fairly tough race at Fontwell.
Coole Cody has shown improved form since going chasing for this yard, winning at Newton Abbot on his return and producing two creditable efforts in defeat since, including when runner-up here in a novice last month. Looks to be on a good mark and is interesting on his first go in a handicap over fences.
Sky Pirate doesn’t usually find much off the bridle and produced a half-hearted effort on his return at Wetherby last month, seemingly going well but failing to go through with his effort. Not usually far away, but this is a tougher race and he’s a tricky customer.
Timeform’s analyst verdict
Simply The Betts (NAP) looks the type that will progress out of handicaps this season and can remain unbeaten over the Cheltenham fences with a successful return. Saint Sonnet is another capable of much better and looks an obvious danger, while superb jumper Siruh du Lac is also of firm interest on his first start for David Pipe.
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