This is your typical competitive handicap hurdle around here and you need one who is ahead of the game. Evan Williams is a trainer who does not pitch horses in at the deep end and I can’t ignore his Esprit du Large here. He was really impressive at Hereford beating a decent yardstick and he will do for me.
Itchy Feet was a good third at Cheltenham in the Supreme Novices ahead of Aramon. I was a little disappointed with the latter at the festival – I wonder was it the slower ground? Winston C is a good each-way in a race where you can pick holes in the form of the front few in the betting.
Topofthegame was one of the horses to follow that I put up at the start of the season and I am not deserting him now. He was super-impressive at the Festival in the RSA Chase but you just don’t know how much that has taken out of him. I still take him to win.
The rain has come for Waiting Patiently fans. This is his chance to shine with so many things in his favour. He has proved able at the highest level over this trip so no worries there. His trainer Ruth Jefferson has her horses in great form as I saw last week at Newcastle where she was narrowly denied a double by a short head.
Min and Politologue are closely matched on running last year but I expect them to play second-fiddle to Waiting Patiently.
The Topham Chase over the Grand National fences. As you all know by now, I love Janika and he has hit the crossbar the last three times for us! He has gone up in the weights each time, which is a killer as he is 17lbs higher than when getting beat at Ascot.
I am still going to have a little on him but I am drawn to Activial also, some of this horse’s form is strong and, as he is a good jumper, he is worth a tipple at 20/1.
I can’t help but feel this race is ripe for an upset. Champ ran a hell of a race at Cheltenham but the worry is whether he will stay. The ground was slow by the end of the day on the Thursday and that may count against him. I am going to take an each-way punt on Walk Away for Henry de Bromhead.
He won at Thurles in an ordinary race, but he may well be ridden to pick up the pieces and may just do that.
McFabulous was a comfy winner last time and Paul Nicholls has always thought the world of him. He is a half-brother to Waiting Patiently and it would be fitting if he were to win here.
Odds correct at time of posting.