1. Aso (Venetia Williams/Charlie Deutsch)
Won a handicap at Newbury and Grade 3 handicap here (by two lengths from Happy Diva) in 2018/19, but lost his way following a promising reappearance last season. Has something to prove now and faces no easy task off top weight.
2. Simply The Betts (Harry Whittington/Gavin Sheehan)
Smart novice last season, winning four of his five starts, notably the Timeform Novices’ Handicap Chase and the Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate, both on the New course here. Races from an 8 lb higher mark on his first run for eight months, but remains with plenty of potential over fences and looks a big player.
3. Mister Fisher (Nicky Henderson/Nico de Boinville)
Confirmed the promise of his chasing debut when winning a novice on the New course here in December and progressed further when following up in the Lightning Novices’ Chase at Doncaster (by a length from Al Dancer) in January. Emerged best of the British runners when fourth to Samcro in the Marsh Novices’ Chase at the Cheltenham Festival last time, and should have more to offer this season. Has to be considered.
4. Al Dancer (Nigel Twiston-Davies/Sam Twiston-Davies)
Made a winning chase debut over 2m at this track in October last year and showed improved form in defeat for the remainder of the season. Looked better than ever when winning an intermediate chase at Newton Abbot last month, and that run puts him in the mix here on handicap chase debut.
5. Slate House (Colin Tizzard/Robbie Power)
Bolted up in a novice chase at this course on his return last season and was still travelling well and had every chance when falling two out in this race on his next start. Won his next two outings, notably the 3m Kauto Star Novices’ Chase at Kempton. Well beaten on both starts since, so has a bit to prove, but folly to rule out given the form he was in at this stage last year.
6. Happy Diva (Kerry Lee/Richard Patrick (3))
Likeable and consistent mare who put up a gallant effort to win this race 12 months ago by a neck from Brelan d’As, making up for the misfortune she suffered in the race in 2018. Finished runner-up to Simply The Betts in the Plate on her final start last season, but is now 6 lb better off with that rival, and will likely be spot on now following her reappearance at Wetherby last month.
7. Siruh du Lac (David Pipe/Tom Scudamore)
Prolific in 2018/19, winning all four starts, notably a Grade 3 handicap and the Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate, both on the New course. Pulled up when making his reappearance in this race 12 months ago, but was surely going to play a hand in the finish before falling two out in the Plate won by Simply The Betts last time. Usually a superb jumper of fences so isn’t ruled out on his first start for David Pipe.
8. Spiritofthegames (Dan Skelton/Harry Skelton)
Finished third to Siruh du Lac in the Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate in 2018/19. Pulled up in this race on return last year (first start since a breathing operation), but finished runner-up twice on the New course later in the season before a creditable fifth to Simply The Betts in the Plate on his final start. Can be competitive from this mark but may need the run.
9. Saint Sonnet (Paul Nicholls/Harry Cobden)
Useful listed-winning hurdler in France and made the perfect start for new connections in a novice chase at Catterick in February. Ran creditably stepped up markedly in class when seventh to Samcro in the Marsh Novices’ Chase 16 days later, leaving the impression better is to come. Trainer has targeted him at this race and an opening mark of 147 could be exploitable. High on the shortlist.
10. Domaine de l’Isle (Sean Curran/Sean Bowen)
Progressive in handicaps in 2019/20, completing a hat-trick in the bet365 Handicap Chase at Ascot (by neck from Bennys King) in January. Not in the same form when well found in the market on his final start last season, and didn’t make much impact in a novice hurdle at this track on his return last month. Entitled to strip fitter for that, though, and may have more to offer over fences.
11. Brelan d’As (Paul Nicholls/Jonjo O’Neill Jr.)
Best effort over fences came when a neck second to Happy Diva in this race last year, and can have his run in the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup back here ignored, yet to be asked for effort when all but coming down three out. Remains on a fair mark judged on that, and one to watch in the market.
12. Kauto Riko (Tom Gretton/Conor O’Farrell)
Hasn’t won for nearly two years, but he wasn’t disgraced when second to Definitly Red in a listed event at Kelso in February. Was below his best when down the field behind Simply The Betts in the Plate on his last start, and looks up against it on his return from eight months off.
13. Fidux (Alan King/Tom Bellamy)
Enjoying a good season, finishing runner-up in the Summer Plate at Market Rasen and resuming winning ways over the same C&D last time. The runner-up has performed creditably since, but a 4 lb higher mark pitched into a deeper race now demands more.
14. Pinson du Rheu (Alexandra Dunn/Michael Nolan)
Showed fairly useful form when winning a minor event at Cagnes-sur-Mer (by two and a half lengths from Daisy Baie) in November 2019. In fifth position and weakening when falling at the last in the Group 3 Prix du President de la Republique Handicap won by D’jango at Auteuil on his final start for Yannick Fouin. Looks high enough in the weights now making his British debut.
15. The Russian Doyen (Colin Tizzard/Adrian Heskin)
Useful novice chaser in 2018/19, but very lightly raced in recent years. Shaped as though retaining all of his ability back over hurdles at Fontwell last month, but he did endure a tough race. Not handicapped out of this on his best form, but he needs to go the right way from his recent return.
16. Coole Cody (Evan Williams/Tom O’Brien)
Looked better than ever on debut for this yard when opening his account over fences at Newton Abbot in August, and ran just as well in defeat over an extended 3m at the same course after. Not disgraced when runner-up to Southfield Stone in a novice here last time, and looks fairly treated having his first start in a handicap over fences.
17. Sky Pirate (Jonjo O’Neill/Jonathan Burke)
Tricky customer who has threatened to win a race of this nature on more than one occasion, running well but failing to go through with his effort on his return at Wetherby last month, trading at odds on in running for the sixth time in nine starts over fences. Has plenty of ability but isn’t one to trust.