Commanche Red showed useful form over hurdles, winning twice last season, but he has quickly developed into a much better chaser, finishing third on his first couple of outings over fences before producing an improved effort to strike over this course and distance on Boxing Day.
The form of that novice handicap chase is working out well – the second, third and fourth have all won since – and Commanche Red was in a league of his own, justifying good support in style as he bolted up by nine lengths. The manner of success, and his fluent jumping, suggests Commanche Red is well up to this sort of level and he is the one to beat.
Highway One O Two failed to win in bumpers but was steadily progressive in that sphere and has taken really well to hurdling, winning both outings at Plumpton by wide margins. He still looked a bit raw last time, refusing to settle, but he clearly has a huge engine and has plenty of improvement still to come as he develops.
He is well worth a crack at this sort of level.
Black Corton is a likeable, consistent type who has dropped to a fair mark so he makes plenty of appeal from an each-way perspective. He has hit the frame on each of his last eight starts and ran respectably to finish fourth in the Silver Cup last time, perhaps paying the price for doing a bit too much in front.
He has won on soft ground but is better suited by less testing conditions and looks to have plenty in his favour under optimum conditions (he won the Grade 1 Kauto Star Novices’ Chase over course and distance in 2017). Paul Nicholls-trained stablemate Adrien du Pont also has a big chance but Black Corton has a rock-solid profile and is worth backing each-way.