This certainly looks like a two-horse race with previous winners Archimento and Gateway to Europe heading the market.
Gateway to Europe won nicely at Fontwell and the form got a boost when the second that day just got beat at Hexham next time. Archimento was a 80-rated Flat horse who stayed well for William Knight.
He won at Fontwell and with that experience under his belt, will be very hard to beat.
Ban Shoof won four times on the Flat including off a mark of 64 at Lingfield in December. If you add 45 lbs to a flat horse’s rating it is a pretty good barometer to what they should at least be capable of running to over jumps. That has him potentially running to 109, but still leaves him a bit to find with the principles who race off 127 and 121 respectively.
This is a good handicap with decent yardstick Cubswin heading the weights. She is a really tough cookie and will run solid again here. Harmonise is the one I like as she is a four-time winner – even if only one of those coming over hurdles.
She has been running really well of late on the Flat and comes into this on the back of a win at Leicester over 1m 4f. Her form over hurdles is patchy but she was highly-tried and I would forgive her that and take her credentials more on her recent Flat wins.
Olly Murphy’s What will Be has only 8st 11lbs to carry with Lewis Stones’ 7lb claim and the three-year-old allowance. This Stratford winner can be competitive here behind Harmonise.
It can pay to jump on the bandwagon of a trainer in form and having been at Newton Abbot and watched Martin Keighley have a winner, I am drawn to Gold Mountain with the tongue tie back on.
Stepping up in trip could help bring about out the improvement needed. Alexander the Grey lost out close home at Stratford over 2m 4f and didn’t enjoy dropping down in trip last time, but may well enjoy stepping up in distance and will be dangerous if allowed to dominate from the front.
Silver Man’s last win was in May 2017, but has been more consistent recently and could figure with Dickie Johnson in the saddle.
Gary Moore is always a force to be reckoned with in these races – especially around here. He’s won this contest three times in the last eight years and runs newcomer Brambledown, who gets my vote.
The obvious pick is Local Affair who kept on really well to finish second last time, despite swishing her tail when under pressure.
Sizing Granite is hoping to add to the current impressive strike rate of his trainer Colin Tizzard, who has had four winners from his last six runners – and this veteran has every chance of adding to it.
Young Wolf has been really solid this season, but is paying the price by climbing up the ratings while Glanvilles Guest has won two already this term for Kieran Burke and can get competitive.
The in-form Tizzard team can just edge it.
The five-year-old Gaelic Poet is a interesting contender in this with not many miles under his belt.
However, you’ll have to take the jumping on trust. The jockey booking of Dicky Johnson catches my eye as the reigning jumps jockey does not need to ride first-timers in novice handicap chases if they can’t win anymore!
Torhousemuir after a good win at Worcester looks the safest option, while the Gary and Jamie
Moore combo run Goldslinger who was a good third at Fontwell and the winner has gone in again since.
Just keep an eye out for a flood of support for Gaelic Poet.
Light of Air has been flying over the summer on the Flat, winning at Brighton last time but seven runs and no wins over jumps is a little different.
Musical Stardust has won twice at Fontwell and is a tiger. Despite being up 5lb for her last win there, this daughter of Passing Glance can still win here with Dicky Johnson in the plate.
Hermosa Vaquera won this last year but hasn’t done much since. Watch for any market moves.