Has some strong back-form, finishing runner-up in a race that has worked out incredibly well at Exeter last month, and running to a similar level when filling the same position at Aintree last time. It is encouraging that he has been able to show as much as he has over the minimum trip given how much stamina there is in his pedigree, and he should prove hard to beat now moving up in distance.
Shaped much better than being pulled up suggests on his return at Newbury last month, going with plenty of zest early in the race and still close up with the principals when making a race-ending mistake three out. That knocked the stuffing out of him and he was pulled up before the last, but he shaped as though still on a fair mark on that occasion, and is fancied to take advantage now.
Coped really well with a deep surface at Cheltenham last time and is selected to make it three from three over hurdles. Irish-raider Cerberus was successful in a Grade 3 last time and should go well, while Tavus saw off subsequent Grade 2 scorer Navajo Pass when making a winning start to his hurdle career at Newcastle.
Ran well in first-time cheek-pieces when finishing runner-up in a competitive handicap at Haydock last month, deserving extra credit for keeping going for as long as he did given he was always up with the strong pace and had fought off a few challengers by the time the winner flew late. He has been raised 4lb in the weights for that run but still looked leniently treated and another big run is on the cards.
Last year’s winner is 9 lb higher than when taking this last year, but he looked better than ever when placed in the Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury last time and is unexposed at marathon trips. He can become the first horse to land back-to-back renewals since Bonanza Boy 30 years ago, perhaps at the main expense of Now McGinty.
Paul Nicholls pair Yala Enki and Truckers Lodge are also on the shortlist in a race where Paddy’s paying the first 5 home.
There should be more to come from CLONDAW ANCHOR and Dominateur, both of whom impressed when opening their chase accounts last time. The latter landed a decent C&D contest and isn’t passed over lightly, but Clondaw Anchor was dominant from the front at Lingfield and a 10lb rise may not be enough to stop him. Another Emotion and Samburu Shujaa also need considering in an intriguing race.
He cost connections £100,000 after falling at the last when having every chance in a point and he shaped with plenty of promise on Rules debut in a bumper at Newcastle last month. He travelled notably well on that occasion, leaving the impression he would just come on for the run, and he could prove hard to beat here with normal improvement.