Although Big Penny brings fair placed form to the table, the suspicion remains that she needs to drop a few pounds, so the vote goes to MILANSTORM.
He seems to be getting his act together over hurdles and should be suited by this step up in distance.
The Composeur could be a threat back on a sounder surface, while Buckled is fairly treated and should enjoy this return to 3m.
Hard-luck stories for both Billy The Squid and Ten Thousand Stars last time should ensure that both have their supporters.
There are also some interesting newcomers, with Jan Wellens likely to be able to give a good account.
The preference is for RED MISSILE though, who brings stamina and ability from the Flat and is taken to make a winning hurdles debut.
Nigel Twiston-Davies usually runs a good one in this race and has won it six times in the last decade.
His Grade 2 novice hurdle winner REDFORD ROAD might be better suited by 3m, but still gets the nod.
Saglawy also has a Grade 2 hurdle win on his CV and is feared most, even though his recent stable debut on the Flat was disappointing. Big Bad Bear is another good prospect for novice chases this season, while the other two are useful performers too.
Dan Skelton’s PERCY’S WORD has been absent since finishing second at Newbury on his hurdling debut in December 2018, but that form reads well. He’ll be hard to beat here if able to produce a similar performance.
Check My Pulse and Archi’s Affaire both showed enough this summer to suggest they can feature, while Poppa Poutine looks an interesting recruit from an Irish point and Universal Gleam is an interesting recruit from the Flat.
Bumper winner STONER’S CHOICE was safely held by the winner when second over course and distance on last month’s hurdling debut, but he was a long way clear of the others and, given his jumping was sketchy, he did well in the circumstances.
If he gets into a better rhythm today, he might be the answer. Universal Folly is a danger if judged on the first of his two bumper runs, while Oscar Clouds and Copperless both have significant potential to improve from their debut efforts.
Jonjo O’Neill’s seven-year-old DEMON D’AUNOU has a point to prove after a disappointing hurdle run last month, but he was quite impressive when winning on his chasing debut at Cartmel in July and remains well handicapped on some of his hurdle form.
He gets the nod ahead of River Icon, who has also won over fences at Cartmel this season.
Dancing In The Sky took well to chasing this summer and is also considered. Monsieur Co has become well handicapped but doesn’t seem to be firing on all cylinders.
Cases can be made for several of these but the one open to significant improvement over hurdles is handicap debutant CHEZ HANS (NAP), who has been placed twice on the Flat this season. Tegerek, Kajaki, and Wakool are others to consider.
The unexposed six-year-old CAGE OF FEAR may well have made a winning chase debut at Market Rasen last month but for making a hash of the last, and he can make amends today.
The well-handicapped Charmix is feared most, while Craigmor can also get involved if minimising the jumping blunders.
Top weight Talktomenow could make his presence felt if a wind operation has proved successful, while cases can also be made for Petite Ganache and Frame Rate.
Onlyfoolsownhorses and Broadway Joe would be interesting if attracting market support, but the selection is MEAD VALE.
He ran quite well over 2m here last time and has placed form over this trip off a much higher mark.
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