Gordon Elliott won this three-mile novice chase in 2010 and 2011, including with subsequent Cheltenham Festival winner Chicago Grey, and he has continued to target this contest with exciting types, notably sending out Tiger Roll to finish third in 2016.
Elliott will be responsible for the favourite this year in Galvin, an unexposed chaser who has racked up a hat-trick since finishing an excellent second to Imperial Aura in the novices’ handicap chase at the Festival.
Galvin, who has won eight times during his career and boasts a superb strike-rate, comes into this contest with a higher pre-race Timeform rating than any horse who has competed in the race in the last decade.
However, this will not be a simple task as he has stamina to prove over this demanding three miles and Doctor Duffy and Soldier of Love – two thorough stayers – have shown a smart level of form.
A case can also be made for the three chasing debutants, most notably Mossy Fen, a Grade 2 winner over hurdles who has the physique of a horse that should thrive over fences. It could take a very smart performance to win this contest that is much more competitive than the numbers suggest.
This maiden hurdle has a fine roll of honour, featuring the likes of Court Minstrel (Scottish Champion Hurdle winner), Lac Fontana (Grade 1 Mersey Novices’ Hurdle winner) and Thomas Darby (runner-up in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle).
The winner of this year’s contest will also be worth following in all likelihood as there are some interesting types from top yards on show. The obvious starting point is the Nicky Henderson-trained Pipesmoker, who showed promise on both starts over hurdles last season, finishing third behind Chantry House (strong form) here on the New Course before splitting Sporting John and Master Debonair at Ascot. That experience should stand him in good stead and he is entitled to improve.
Presentandcounting, Faivoir and Art Approval also have the Timeform ‘p’ attached to their rating, indicating that they are likely to improve, while Champagnesuperover showed plenty of ability in bumpers and is a fine prospect for hurdling. This contest could take some winning.
The Masterson Holdings Hurdle usually attracts some of the better four-year-olds in training, providing a nice starting point before they must take on older rivals.
Paul Nicholls often targets a nice sort at the race and has won three of the last ten runnings, including with Quel Destin 12 months ago. Sir Psycho, who carries the same colours as Quel Destin, and another previous winner in Dodging Bullets, is a possible for this year’s prize and will have a fitness edge on most of these after posting an encouraging effort on his reappearance at Chepstow this month.
He will be well suited by dropping back in trip as the step up to two and a half miles appeared to catch him out at Chepstow.
The one to beat, even with a penalty, is Triumph Hurdle third Allmankind, who paid the price for doing too much too soon on the stiffer New Course in the Triumph performance, but he had won his three previous outings, including the Grade 1 Finale Juvenile Hurdle at Chepstow.
The free-going Allmankind still has the Timeform ‘p’ attached to his rating, indicating that he is capable of better if racing more efficiently.
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