Riders Onthe Storm was well backed on what looked a good opening mark in a valuable event at Cheltenham in March but failed to complete after a mistake at the sixth.
He ran too badly to be true when pulled up at Fairyhouse, in a race won by a horse he had beaten previously, but he made an impressive start for Nigel Twiston-Davies when winning a strong Aintree handicap on his yard debut last month.
He is capable of better still now in the hands of a leading yard in this discipline and looks the one to beat here.
Espoir de Guye struck at the second time of asking over hurdles in France before joining Venetia Williams’s yard last month and matched that form with a promising chase debut when runner-up in a race that has subsequently worked out very well.
Williams’s charge then built on that promise when winning an Exeter handicap with plenty in hand two weeks ago. As expected, the five-year-old was well served by the step up in trip and, with further improvement anticipated, is certainly one to keep on side.
Sir Valentine was in the process of making a promising start to his hurdling career when departing at the last at Chepstow in what has subsequently proven a strong race. He built on that promise next time out when running out a ready winner at Newbury and starting to look like a useful novice in the making.
He probably didn’t progress as hoped when held by the potentially smart Ribble Valley at Wetherby last month, but still ran with credit under a penalty and stuck to his task after losing a shoe. This is a typically competitive renewal but, while Sir Valentine lacks experience for a race of this stature, an opening mark of 130 looks manageable on the basis of his strong novice form.