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Sceau Royal faces three rivals in the Game Spirit Chase as last year’s victor goes over fences for the first time this season after four hurdles runs.
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The small-but-slick field is completed by Paul Nicholls’ progressive Hitman, course-and-distance winner Funambule Sivola and 2021 Grand Annual hero Sky Pirate.
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Game Spirit Chase runners
Trainer: Alan King Jockey: James Bowen Age: 10 Weight: 11st 6lbs
Very smart hurdler/chaser who took this event 12 months ago. Turned in a rare poor effort in International Hurdle at Cheltenham last time, but he’s very much the sort to bounce back here.
Trainer: Jonjo O’Neill Jockey: Nick Scholfield Age: 9 Weight: 11st 4lbs
Yet to add to last year’s Grand Annual Chase success but he’s posted four solid efforts this term, runner-up in 2m Warwick handicap last time. Firmly in the mix once more.
Trainer: Venetia Williams Jockey: Charlie Deutsch Age: 7 Weight: 11st 0lbs
Four-time scorer last term who proved well suited by the return to 2m when back to winning ways in Doncaster handicap 15 days ago. Likeable front-runner who can do better still. Big player.
Trainer: Paul Nicholls Jockey: Harry Cobden Age: 6 Weight: 11st 0lbs
Course winner who comes here on back of excellent second to stable-mate Greaneteen in Tingle Creek at Sandown. Still low mileage and goes well fresh too, so he can’t be discounted after his break.
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Game Spirit Chase tips
Matt Chapman: Nothing on here is going to be winning the Champion Chase. SCEAU ROYAL is not getting any you get but he beat Champ in this last year and that kind of ability should be enough to score for Alan King and James Bowen. Has been hurdling recently but as that success suggests fences are no issue. He’s just been placed well.
Mick Fitzgerald: SCEAU ROYAL won this contest last year before finishing a very unlucky fifth in the Queen Mother at the Festival. The drying ground is a positive and he is definitely the one to beat.
Frank Hickey: SCEAU ROYAL carries a 6lb penalty and Sky Pirate has a 4lb penalty. Sceau Royal did win this race last year where he beat Champ, Greanateen, Fanion Destruval, Magic Saint and Dolos. The decent ground suits him and Alan King was a little quiet, but he had three winners between Wednesday and Thursday.
Timeform: A case can be made for all of the quartet, but FUNAMBULE SIVOLA is a really likeable sort who still has more to offer at the minimum trip and he is taken to follow up his recent Doncaster success. Last year’s victor Sceau Royal wasn’t at his best over hurdles last time but still rates a big threat back chasing, while both Sky Pirate and Hitman can have a say too in a fascinating Game Spirit.
Ruby Walsh: If you go back to last April at Aintree, FUNAMBULE SIVOLA gave Shishkin a bit of a run. Funambule Sivola then ran at Huntingdon in December but I don’t think he stayed, he got outstayed by First Flow. He dropped down in distance at Doncaster at the end of last month and won despite making a big mistake at the first. If there’s any horse here who could be a possible each-way shout in the Champion Chase, it’s Funambule Sivola.
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