Was right up with the leaders from second Bechers onwards last year, eventually folding to finish seventh. Previously placed at two Cheltenham Festivals and jumping combined with staying power are his strong suits. Winning, however, is not, as he has done so just once over fences in 12 starts. 1lb lower than a year ago and a promising second latest, but difficult to believe one won’t be too good.
22. Top Ville Ben
Win this season came over hurdles at Lingfield and was subsequently second in desperate conditions at Haydock in a Grade 2 over timber. Form over fences has tailed off since winning 2019 Rowland Meyrick at Wetherby off 6lb higher, with third in the same race a few months ago showing there has been at least a slight regression. Fell on his only start over these fences in the Becher and does not inspire confidence.
23. Enjoy D’allen
Another in the colours of J P McManus and finished third in last season’s Irish National. Only run over fences since saw him finish an excellent third at Leopardstown over Christmas and only 3lb higher via the Irish tax here. Yet to finish outside the first three over fences and has looked a fairly decent stayer to date, so for all he is from an unfashionable yard and has not been as good over hurdles this season, he has been prepared in good style for this. A sneaky contender.
24. Anibale Fly
Fourth and fifth in this race in the past off marks of 159 and 164. Now down to a rating of just 148, but form over fences after that has been truly terrible. Third in a Punchestown handicap over 3m7f the only decent finish since and that form is not miles off the standard needed, but looks very unlikely to contend on the balance of things.
25. Dingo Dollar
Scottish National runner-up a year ago off 3lb lower. That was a muddlingly condensed finish at Ayr and would officially be coming in off the same mark had the weights been announced after March 5th. Only fifth in Kelso’s Listed Premier Chase and while he will prefer this greater stamina test, he is not coming into this in sparkling enough form to be recommended.
26. Freewheelin Dylan
Improbably Irish National winner at 150/1 last season, dominating from the front and refusing to be passed. Backed that off by finishing fourth off 8lb higher at Punchestown next time out and can be forgiven unseating over the cross country fences, for all it was at the “Aintree” fence. Is vastly better off with Run Wild Fred on Irish National form and clearly relishes a test. If he takes to this, he is an utterly ludicrous price and is well in with a shout here.
27. Class Conti
Last of 15 finishes a year ago and form of P90 since then does not exactly inspire a dramatic turnaround. Horses have emerged from finishing down the pack in a previous renewal, but he is only 2lb lower after a string of lax efforts and he is more likely to finish last again.
28. Noble Yeats
Form in beating Arkle runner-up Gabynako on chase debut in October seemingly more suited to much shorter distances. However, upped in trip since and respectable second to Ahoy Senor at Wetherby in February. Campaigned with a big handicap win in mind, but it would nevertheless be quite a shock if he suddenly emerged to win this. Only eighth off this mark over 3m1f at the Cheltenham Festival recently.
29. Mighty Thunder
Edinburgh and Scottish National hero last year, with form of 121 in staying handicaps that season. Tougher tasks on first two starts this season in the Charlie Hall and then on unsuitably soft ground in the Welsh National. Much more concerning was that he returned with a respiratory issue when defending the Edinburgh National at Musselburgh. Does mean he is only 3lb higher than his last success and looks a likely debutant to enjoy it here, but there is enough doubt about his wellbeing.
30. Cloth Cap
Pulled up at prohibitively short odds in this a year ago. Did come into it in sensational form and trainer blamed a respiratory issue, while it is worth remembering that he travelled strongly with the leaders most of the way. Remarkably, he’s now 1lb lower than that day, but that speaks to a lack of form this term. Has not been disgraced on any start though and conditions could be ideal, but chances are he just failed to stay last year.
31. Snow Leopardess
Has become the bookies’ nightmare after waves of support. Grey mares cross every possible negative in terms of trends: Neptune Collonges is the only grey to win since 1961, while no mare has succeeded since 1951. However, three wins this season have been impressive, including in the Becher Chase in December. Durable, jumps well, goes at the track and could yet be more to come, but could do with more rain and was emptying at the end of 3m2f in the Becher.
32. Agusta Gold
Would be a remarkably apt winner in the week of the Masters. 11th off this mark in the Irish National, though expectation would be she’d receive a higher mark in this country. Nevertheless, form this season was far from encouraging until a better effort at Down Royal last month. That is still miles from what is required here.
33 on the card as he replaces Phoenix Way. Exuberant grey who fairly bolted up at Cheltenham back in December. Beat a decent yardstick that day by 15 lengths, jumping boldly and that effort aligned exactly with stable and jockey’s form. Unlike many from yard, he would definitely prefer a sounder surface, with two of his best efforts coming on good to soft, with precious little form on heavy. Up 9lb for latest success, but low enough racing weight and might really take to this test.
34. Deise Aba
Excluding a gruelling running of the Welsh National in December, Philip Hobbs’ charge has acquitted himself well this season. Three seconds, including on the line in the London National will have been a frustrating return, but they have ensured his rating has risen to 145, enough to make the cut here. No falls or unseats in his career, but form in last eight starts reads PP1P22P2 and it feels like another P is more likely off a career high mark.
Oldest horse in the field at the age of 13. It has been 99 years since a horse of that age last won, but two wins this season, one by 28 lengths show this horse is far from an average teenager. Pulling up last time in Haydock’s Grand National Trial was no shame as there were only three finishers. Same mark now as when sixth a year ago and may be capable of one more big performance to reward each-way backers.
36. Poker Party
Sporadic racer with only four starts since 2019. Three since 666-day layoff have all gone very poorly, as he was down the field in a handicap chase and hurdle before pulling up in the Cross Country Chase at Cheltenham. Would probably be the most surprising winner.
37. Death Duty
Boy wonder novice hurdler and chaser, but has not been the easiest to keep on track. Achieved first win in over four years in Punchestown’s Grand National Trial in February on heavy ground, showing hitherto unproven stamina. Sixth off this mark at Cheltenham in the Ultima, but this is a challenge that may suit better. If the rain came, he might be one to consider even more seriously.
38. Domaine De L’Isle
Back-to-back wins last spring saw Sean Curran’s nine-year-old rise to prominence. Largely well-held this term, including when fourth in the Becher Chase. That alone would have given some encouragement that he would enjoy this test, but distantly beaten in the Eider Chase last time and makes little appeal.
39. Eclair Surf
Classic Chase winner from the front in January, winning very cosily from a horse who went close at the Cheltenham Festival. Second to runaway Scottish National heroine Win My Wings in the Eider Chase at Newcastle and would get in off the same weight if getting a run. That would make him extremely interesting, as he clearly relishes long distances on decent ground. Likely to be even shorter in the market now guaranteed a run from the foot of the weights.
Has shown a real aptitude for a scrap since running on soft ground this season. First two starts on a sounder surface resulted in uncompetitive defeats, but was then only narrowly beaten at both Kempton and Haydock in high quality handicaps, both on soft ground. The latter, the Peter Marsh Chase, was especially attritional, while he flew late to deny Fiddlerontheroof at Ascot last time. Same mark here and extra mile could well be in his favour.