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Trainer: Paul Nicholls Jockey: Bryony Frost Age: 7 Weight: 11st 10lbs
Mark was 17lb lower when winning this race last year, but he subsequently improved in Grade 1 company, landing the Celebration Chase at Sandown when last seen in April. Yard also saddles Hitman.
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Trainer: Paul Nicholls Jockey: Harry Cobden Age: 5 Weight: 10st 7lbs
French recruit who quickly made up into a smart novice last term. Stamina seemingly stretched when third in a 2½m Grade 1 at Aintree in April and this trip should be ideal. Has undergone a wind op.
Trainer: Colin Tizzard Jockey: Brendan Powell Age: 7 Weight: 10st 7lbs
Made good start over fences with wins at Newton Abbot and Cheltenham (Grade 2) last season. Limitations seemingly exposed thereafter, though, and he looks vulnerable back from a 6-month break.
Trainer: Nick Williams Jockey: Tom Scudamore Age: 8 Weight: 10st 2lbs
Pulled up in the Grand Annual at the Cheltenham Festival when last seen in March (wind op since), but successful at Newbury prior to that and was just touched off by Greaneteen in this race last year.
Trainer: Dan Skelton Jockey: Harry Skelton Age: 6 Weight: 10st 1lbs
Highly progressive over fences last term, notching his third victory in this sphere at Warwick in March. Kelso reappearance third was respectable and should make his presence felt.
Trainer: Philip Hobbs Jockey: Tom O’Brien Age: 7 Weight: 10st 0lbs
Useful hurdler and quickly showed even better form over fences when winning at Newbury last November. Not disgraced at Aintree on final start of last season, but this demands a clear career-best.
Timeform Verdict: Paul Nicholls has landed three of the last six runnings of this and HITMAN could be another for the yard. He looked the likely winner of an Aintree Grade 1 in April until his stamina ebbed away late on, and this drop back in trip looks a good move. Stablemate Greaneteen has to concede lumps of weight all round and the rival he touched off in this race last year, Moonlighter, is feared most.
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