Fiddlerontheroof sets the standard but he was a beaten odds-on favourite at Wincanton last month and is worth opposing with Timberman, who caught the eye when runner-up in a Newbury bumper on his debut under Rules. The winner of that contest, Son of Camas, has since won a strongly-contested maiden hurdle, which makes Timberman’s effort even more noteworthy. Trainer Nicky Henderson has won six of the last eight runnings of this race, so it is clearly a contest he targets with a decent prospect, and Timberman is preferred to stablemate Daphne du Clos.
This is a competitive mares’ event, but Crossgalesfamegame was an impressive winner at Market Rasen and looks fairly treated on her handicap debut, so she gets the nod. She showed some promise in bumpers and on her hurdles debut but was much improved at Market Rasen, relishing the testing conditions as others struggled. She looked a strong stayer on that occasion, so this stiffer track will suit, and she has plenty more to offer.
Winning pointer Go Whatever has improved with each start under Rules and got off the mark in good style at Plumpton last month. He’s not especially well treated on the bare form of that victory but he has plenty of untapped potential and is expected to improve another chunk to make a winning handicap debut. Go Whatever’s stamina proved decisive at Plumpton and this step up in trip looks sure to suit.
Summerville Boy was a leading novice hurdler two seasons ago and won the Supreme at the Cheltenham Festival. His campaign last season was derailed by injury but he got his career back on track when successful on his chasing debut at Uttoxeter last month and he could be a major force over fences. The four-year-old Torpillo is a massive danger in receipt of weight, but Summerville Boy could just be a notch above.
Smarty Wild has won four of his last five starts and may not have stopped improving yet, so he can defy the handicapper again. He ran poorly on his return in October but, away from the hustle and bustle of a big-field Cheltenham handicap, resumed his progress with victory at Exeter, doing well under the circumstances given how keen he was. Another bold bid is on the cards.
Defi du Seuil was one of the leading novice chasers last season and achieved Grade 1 success here in the Scilly Isles before following up in the JLT at the Cheltenham Festival. He displayed his trademark turn of foot to beat Politologue on his reappearance at Cheltenham last month, doing particularly well to make up ground in a slowly-run race, and he could yet do even better over fences. Un de Sceaux and Politologue look sure to give a good account but Defi du Seuil is the up-and-comer and can prove too quick.
Vinnie Lewis is relatively unexposed over fences compared to many of his rivals, especially over these marathon trips, and he is worth siding with. He made little impression in the Durham National on his return, but that outing will have blown away the cobwebs and he is interesting based on his comfortable success in the Sussex National two seasons ago. He is a thorough stayer and can put his stamina to good use.
13:20 Go Whatever
13:50 Summerville Boy
14:25 Smarty Wild
15:00 Defi du Seuil
15:35 Vinnie Lewis