A hugely competitive renewal of this Grade 2 race, certainly a tougher contest than the one Wishful Thinking won last year. The 12 year old has a difficult task on hand to try and defend his crown. Because he is down to last years handicap mark he is not completely out of it, but others make certainly more appeal.
Jonjo O’Neill’s Johns Spirit is one of those well fancied runners. He’s done remarkably well as a fresh horse in the last number of years, so a bold bid is expected. A career best is required, but this progressive chaser has a good chance to go close judged on his fair effort in the Grade 1 Melling Chase when last seen at this very same venue.
Rajdhani Express has won here at Aintree over the Grand National fences on his final start last season. He is competitive on that particular form obviously, although his win record isn’t all that impressive and a big mark makes life not easy today against excellent opposition.
Always improving over the last two seasons has been Paul Nicholls’ charge Sound Investment. The seven year old won four of his ten starts over fences and was placed in three more of those. He rounded up last season with an excellent Grade 3 success at Newbury and connections will hope for further progress this year.
He already has a prep run under his belt – he run okay in a competitive Grade 3 hurdle a fortnight ago and was lucky not to exit the race after the first when his young jockey almost fell off. He’s expected to come on for the run and that should put him right into the mix here of a good mark.
Another rather lightly raced sort over fences is Buywise, who already has a Grade 2 success to his name. Last season he only won over hurdles, although he was competitive in strong races, mostly around Cheltenham. He’s on a competitive mark but will need to prove that he can act on this flat speed track as well.
Duke Of Navan is an interesting contender. So far mostly tested over two miles, he will step up in trip and we find out whether his stamina holds up. If he stays the distance he’ll be right there when it matters I suspect.
It’s hard to trust Splash Of Ginge these day but on best form he can be in the mix. The Irish bring over Lord Ben. A versatile chaser, who was not disgraced when last seen at Listowel behind a good Gigginstown winner, although more is required here.
You can’t fully rule out Brave Spartacus who has fitness on his side. He’s already a Listed Chase winner and could improve again. It’s harder to make a case for Surf An Turf and also Le Bacardy, as those two will have to prove their worthiness in this competitive field.
Summary: This is an excellent renewal: competitive and close to call. Price wise I feel Sound Investment makes the most appeal though. He’s expected to be fit and is a progressive sort, probably not at the end of the road yet in terms of improvement and should love the conditions here. His mark gives him every chance and connections had this race in mind for a long time.
Sound Investment @ 9/1 Bet365 – 5pts Win