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Several possibilities in this very competitive opener. Nicky Henderson has tasted success in this race three times since 2013, so the suggestion is MONTE CRISTO – who was still in with a shout of finishing placed when hampered at the last in the Coral Cup.
He was looked after by Daryl Jacob after and strikes as the type that has more to offer. Edwardstone has some very solid handicap form over 2m to his name and is bred to stay this trip, so he’s next on the list ahead of Mister Coffey.
There are some top prospects on show here, but marginal preference is for the Dan Skelton-trained THIRD TIME LUCKI, who has plenty of experience and shaped better than the bare result when sixth in the County Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival last time.
He travelled with purpose on his first step out of novice company, but was sent for home prematurely and was collared approaching the final flight. That experience won’t be lost on him and he sets the standard on form, while still having more to offer. Dusart has been off the track with injury since his impressive win at Newbury and could have any amount of improvement in him.
CHANTRY HOUSE has gone from strength-to-strength since suffering defeat in a novice chase at Cheltenham in December, scoring in style at Wetherby in February and taking a big leap forward when following up in the Marsh Novices’ Chase last time.
Envoi Allen’s early departure was the main talking point afterwards, but take nothing away from Chantry House, who put up a very smart performance. The step up to 3m at this flat, speed-orientated track will be right up his street and he can prove too strong for Shan Blue and Sporting John.
POLITOLOGUE was pulled out of the Champion Chase at the Cheltenham Festival just before entering the parade ring as he had blood in one of his nostrils. He was checked over and everything was fine with him. It could be a blessing in disguise, as he arrives looking for a second win in this race a fresh horse.
It doesn’t look the strongest renewal of this Grade 1 and Politologue will likely prove hard to beat if running to form. Fakir d’Oudairies, who finished runner-up in the Ryanair, looks the likely danger.
Nicky Henderson has won this on five occasions and his strong team is headed by CARIBEAN BOY, who caught the eye in the Paddy Power Plate at the Cheltenham Festival – left in a poor position given how the race transpired.
That could prove the key piece of form as Huntsman Son also shaped well. Livelovelaugh took extremely well to these fences in the 2019 Grand National and should make much more of an impact at the business end over this shorter trip.
BRAVEMANSGAME looked a potential top-notcher when bolting up in the Challow Hurdle at Newbury and was far from disgraced when third to Bob Olinger in the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival last time.
He was unable to live with the speed of two high-class novices on that occasion, but he will be well suited by the step up to 3m now and he is hard to oppose on form. Cape Gentleman and Gallyhill are arguably open to the most progress and head the opposition.
This looks a wide-open handicap, but COPPERLESS is a hurdler very much on the up and looks a strong contender. He built on his hurdling debut when going one place better at Market Rasen in October and proved his opening mark a lenient one when following up at Taunton last month.
Copperless overcame adverse circumstances and won with much more in hand than the official margin suggests, so a subsequent 5lbs rise looks lenient as Lewis Stones offsets all of that and more with his 7lbs claim. Fransham has enjoyed a fruitful season and another bold showing is on the cards with conditions to suit.
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