Air Horse One has tackled much tougher races than this and is clearly the one to beat after a good fourth behind Elgin at Ascot. Master Dancer looked an improved performer on his return to hurdles when beating Vivas by ten lengths but that form is not looking the strongest which casts doubts but he has clearly turned a corner an should come into calculations. Old Guard seems to have been around forever but is still only six and with Bryony Frost’s claim, drops to a mark one pound lower than when winning the Greatwood in 2015, the worry being that all his best performances are around two miles. Court Minstrel produced a good effort last time at Chepstow and it may be too big an ask for this ten year old to reproduce that run while Jabulani is open to any improvement after winning a novice hurdle at Lingfield easily and looks value @ 8/1. Value too is course winner Maestro Royal @ 14/1 who showed that this trip is within his compass, staying on at Kempton on his seasonal debut. It is interesting that Nicky Henderson postpones his chasing career to take up this engagement. Coeur De Lion is talented and has had his sights significantly lowered after struggling in the Elite Hurdle at Wincanton and now steps up in trip.
Dual winner of this race, Irving, goes for the hat-trick but is likely to have a lot more on his plate with Champion Hurdle winner Buveur D’Air lined up for his seasonal debut. Irving was arguably lucky to hold on against Gordon Elliott’s top class mare Apple’s Jade twelve months ago but the race becomes less of spectacle of with her absence. Buveur D’Air, on Quickened Clear’s ratings is a class apart and if anywhere near race fit should have too much for this field. Flying Tiger struggled in the Grade Two Elite Hurdle at Wincanton and along with Katgary and Mirsaale is only playing for place money.
Generally, this race does not produce superstars with only Rock On Ruby going onto Champion Hurdle glory when taking this race in 2011. Charli Parcs, after looking a world beater back in December 2016 before a below par effort when falling in the Adonis Hurdle, went onto somewhat redeem his reputation with a fair sixth in the Triumph at Cheltenham. Four year olds have won the last three renewals of this race which is a plus but the strength of the juvenile form took a hit with Defi Du Seuil struggling last Saturday, so it will be interesting to see how he has progressed over the summer. Mount Mews looked a horse of some potential last season before struggling in heavy ground on his seasonal debut at Ayr, he can be forgiven that run but maybe wants further than this. High Bridge, a course and distance winner looks the solid contender to take this @ 10/3 after a good third behind Elgin at Ascot who went onto win the Greatwood, the second, Limited Reserve winning last Saturday and the fifth Verdana Blue also victorious. Amour De Nuit may just prefer spring/summer ground while lightly raced seven year old, Poppy Kay can continue her progression and should go well.
Rarely do you see a competitive handicap like the Munster National won is such facile fashion but Total Recall, on his first start since moving yards from Sandra Hughes to Willie Mullins, won with any amount in hand and is clearly the one to beat @ 5/1. If one wanted to pick holes in his victory at Limerick, Alpha Des Obeaux does not seem to stay three miles on soft ground which may have made the finish look visually more impressive than it was. That is not to take anything away from Total Recall but this is by no means a one horse race and there is plenty of value to be had in the field. American is another who could be well ahead of the handicapper, given a quiet campaign last season, only raced three times, he was never tested at the top tables and this strong traveller could yet be anything and has to come into calculations @ 7/1. Second season chasers fare well in this race, which is a bonus for Total Recall and American but also Whisper, Genie In A Bottle, Singlefarmpayment and Badger Ales winner Present Man. Whisper @ 8/1, like American, a strong traveller, was only bested by Might Bite last season, looks tailor made for this trip and should be bang there three out with the only worry that he can lack fluency over his jumps. Genie In A Bottle is a tough stayer but may just lack the class to win this while Present Man showed a real determination to hold on in testing ground at Wincanton but that could have left its mark and it will take a serious effort to reproduce or better that run only twenty one days since. Singlefarmpayment teed up for this race with a good second at Cheltenham and will surely be on the premises @ 7/1. His impressive victor at Cheltenham, Cogry, has produced two quality displays in his last two starts, jumping well, which had always been his Achilles heel and will no doubt attempt a bold display out front @ 20/1. Horses who have performed well in this race previously can often go well again and Carole’s Destrier who finished strongly behind Native River last year, only beaten half a length, will surely be primed for a repeat @ 33/1 while Vyta Du Roc @ 14/1 was a good sixth twelve months ago and proved he can perform at this level when just touched off in the Bet365 Gold Cup at Sandown in April.
The older guard of Wakanda, who is only two pounds higher than when winning this race in 2015 and Yala Enki, with the trip and ground suiting have to fend off the improving types in Beware The Bear and Sam Red. Beware The Bear jumps and stays with a Grand National at some point being the ultimate aim and should be primed for this. He looks the one to beat @ 7/2 for Nicky Henderson while Sam Red has won both his chase starts this season comfortably and is open to improvement. Bishops Road looks well handicapped and if fit will be staying on at the finish though Kerry Lee may have one eye on the Welsh National for this gelding by Heron Island. Our Kaempfer and Boric at prices are not totally out of what is a competitive Rehearsal Chase.
A fairly open looking contest with Baby King and Marracudja the types with more to offer, similarly Overtown Express can improve and has some fair novice form but fitness is the doubt. Greybougg and Duke Of Navan will make this decent test of stamina which should suit Theinval and this is a much easier task than others he has been set with the 13/2 a fair price. That said he should have won more races and it may be that the value lies with Rock On Rocky. He showed up well at Cheltenham last time, has dropped to a winning mark and with a strong pace and soft in the going description likely to suit, is worth a small flutter @ 14/1.
Quickened Clear’s Best Bets:
Jabulani – 1.50 Newbury – 1pt win @ 8/1
Maestro Royal – 1.50 Newbury – 1pt win @ 14/1
Rock On Rocky – 3.35 Newbury – 1pt win @ 14/1