Britain’s richest handicap takes place on Saturday afternoon featuring in a card, I deem as the final substantial one in this country before the Cheltenham Festival, obviously we have Leopardstown across the sea on Sunday which is no doubt, one of the most prestigious days this season but everything leads towards the Cotswolds after this weekend over here.
With some classy novices set to take their place and older campaigners also thrown in, a fast and furious pace will be delivered as ever in a race of this nature. 5 and 6 year olds have dominated this race for the last 10 years so they are the main protagonists to focus on along with the 1st and 2nd season hurdlers.
Last year’s Champion Bumper winner; Ballyandy will be out there from the drop of the flag to make it a thorough test and he heads the market currently at 9/2.
Last time out Cheltenham winner William H Bonney will be hoping to follow up that win for the in-form Alan King and Wayne Hutchinson and he sits at around the 9/1 mark.
Last season Adonis winner; Zubayr enters calculations for Paul Nicholls but has to turn around some disappointing form since that win, almost 12 months ago if he is to win an encounter like this; a current 10/1 poke.
JP McManus’ main hope and the choice of Barry Geraghty is promising novice; Movewiththetimes, one of the least exposed hurdlers in the race, he has won 2 of his 3 starts over obstacles, his only defeat in behind Moon Racer and Ballyandy in a Grade 2. Do he want soft ground? 5/1 for another Paul Nicholls runner.
Clyne comes into this after pushing The New One very, very close in the Champion Hurdle Trial at Haydock a few weeks back. Up 5lb won’t make it easy in a competitive handicap but he’s certainly one for the shortlist on form.
I don’t think we have the star quality of a My Tent or Yours or Zarkandar but still a very hot heat on paper. Ballyandy, for me would have to set very fast fractions out in front if he was to be first past the post. Movewiththetimes is arguably the least exposed animal in the race and I expect him to be bang there albeit slight worries about the ground. The selection here for me is going to be in the form of a last time out winner, which does tend to win this race and that’s the unexposed WILLIAM H BONNEY for the flying double act Alan King and Wayne Hutchinson who is a general 8/1 shot but will get bigger on the exchange.