Above average in bumpers, Whitehotchillifili confirmed the promise of her hurdle debut when scoring here on Boxing Day. She was left clear two from home but was very likely to have won anyway, and looks a useful mare in the making. This step up in trip should hold no fears and, with the prospect of more to come, she is difficult to oppose.
Successful on his sole outing in points, Tea Clipper got off the mark under Rules at the first time of asking at Warwick in October, and maintained his unbeaten record with an assertive victory at Kempton the following month.
He was well-backed on his handicap debut at Huntingdon last month and pulled it out of the fire to land the hat-trick, deserving plenty of credit after rallying well to edge the race close home. He is bred to be a stayer, so this step up in trip should suit, and he looks capable of landing the four-timer.
Darlac was unable to sustain a big move into contention from an uncompromising position after shaping like a well-treated horse for much of the way in the Classic Chase here earlier this month. He was beaten in a share of fifth over a significantly longer trip when falling in the Grade 3, but makes plenty of appeal now tackling this shorter distance off a 2lb lower mark.
French recruit Calva d’Auge showed improved form to get off the mark over hurdles in a Plumpton maiden on his first appearance for Paul Nicholls. He followed up with a good second in a Haydock listed event on his penultimate start before being found out in Grade 1 company in the Tolworth Hurdle last time.
He is much respected here and should be able to take advantage of this return to calmer waters.
Buck’s Bin’s was all the rage after making a winning start in points and, after disappointing on his sole start in bumpers, showed plenty to work on when runner-up on his first two starts over hurdles.
He has shaped far better than the bare results suggest in his two outings over fences this season and has actually taken to chasing better than it might look at first glance. He remains with potential and is very much the type to do better in this sphere, so could be worth another chance to open his account over fences.
Formally a classy chaser for Paul Nicholls, Virak has remained hugely consistent since joining Rose Loxton’s yard and, though his last run under Rules was a somewhat disappointing second at Stratford in May, he did lower the colours of Southfield Theatre in a point earlier this month.
A repeat of that performance should be enough to see him get the better of stablemate Earth Leader and make a successful return to Rules.
Hurricane Mitch looked in need of the experience throughout the first half of his debut, looking unusually hard work for a Harry Fry-trained newcomer, but he caught the eye late on when picking up strongly, and is expected to take a big step forward here.
Baddesley stayed on gamely to land an above-average bumper last time and is the only previous winner in the field, though this drop in trip won’t necessarily play to his strengths.
*Prices correct at time of publishing