Having won three of the last ten renewals, Lucinda Russell’s sole entry, One For Arthur, has to be of interest. The 7yo, who has had only four races over the larger obstacles, can be excused a poor performance last time at Cheltenham (2m5f). Unsuited by the Prestbury Park undulations and over a trip too short, he finished a well beaten fifth. However his two chases at flat, left handed Kelso were more promising, yielding a win, and a third place, behind Seeyouatmidnight who is very prominent in the market for the RSA Chase at the Cheltenham Festival. He was beaten 21L but was conceding 5lbs to Seeyouatmidnight,so it can be considered a decent effort. The previous Russell winners were aged 8,9, and 11, but three 7yo’s have won this in the last seventeen years so age shouldn’t count against him. A course winner over the smaller obstacles on heavy ground he is racing off a mark on Saturday 3lbs lower than his hurdles mark suggesting this promising young stayer has plenty in his favour.
The Paul Nicholls trained Unioniste had disappointed in his previous five races (two of them over the Aintree fences) since winning at Sandown in January 2015, but hinted at better things to come last time. Held up and seemingly struggling, he started to progress from the 17th fence and stayed on to finish third behind La Reve in a Sandown handicap racing off a mark of 150, two weeks ago. Running off the same mark at the weekend, he will have top weight of 11st10lbs to carry, but it didn’t stop his superb trainer winning with Shotgun Willy carrying the same weight in 2003, and indeed Silver By Nature also carried 11st10lbs to victory five years ago. With odds as long as 16/1 available at the time of writing, this winner of six of his nineteen starts over fences does look tempting.
David Pipe’s 8yo Broadway Buffalo ran a fine race in a valuable Grade1 3m hurdle at Auteuil last November finishing 5th, at level weights only 5L behind the winner, the top class Thousand Stars. Considering it was his first run since finishing 6th in the Scottish National last April the performance was particularly meritorious. He is two from three over the course having collected a 2m7f soft ground handicap hurdle in 2014 and the same years renewal of the Tommy Whittle Chase. Indeed he might well have brought up the hat trick but for falling at the 16th when still travelling strongly in last years Betfred Grand National Trial. Stamina won’t be an issue as he has finished second in the 4m National Hunt Chase at the Festival. Off a mark only 4lbs higher than last year he has to be on the shortlist.
The Pipe yard is also represented by the 7yo Vieux Lion Rouge who also boasts winning chase form over the course. However he was being pushed along when unseating at the third last over 3m2f at Cheltenham last time, and his stable companion would seem to possess the better stamina credentials for this.
Sandy Thomson’s 11yo Harry The Viking has run well on all three course appearances, and ran a super race when going down by a head in last years renewal racing off a mark of 124. Remarkably for an 11yo it can be argued that he even trumped that when running second to Rigadin de Beauchene again over the course (3m3 31/2f hvy) in December off a mark of 128. Running off the same mark on Saturday it will come as no surprise to see this hardy veteran again involved at the business end when plenty of the others have cried “enough”.
Alan Kings 8yo Sego Success looked a strong stayer when winning a 3m Doncaster handicap off a mark of 139 in December, and duly went off a well backed 7/1 favourite to take a 3m5f Warwick Grade 3 chase off a mark of 146 five weeks later. In a strange start to a marathon race on heavy ground,they tore off the blocks, and the King horse hit the deck at the second. Always thought of as a stayer and held in high regard his best days are surely in front of him so again racing off 146 is another worth considering.
The Jonjo O’Neill trained 8yo Spookydooky didn’t jump a fence in public until finishing a well beaten 4th in an Aintree novices chase last November. He showed remarkable improvement nineteen days later taking a 2m6 1/2f Newbury novices handicap chase off a mark of 134 and again ran well next time finishing second to Seventh Sky off a mark of 142 on heavy ground at Haydock in December. He had Cloudy too, who went on to win the valuable Peter Marsh Chase, (was Oddsguru’s e.w. Selection) next time out, 6L behind, and now meets that horse on 11lbs better terms, so does look well handicapped. The question is will he stay? It has to be said that he hasn’t looked as if he was crying out for further in any of his races to date, but his pedigree, on both sides has plenty of stamina in it and he has won a 3m and a 3m 1/2f hurdle race, so while the omens are positive the jury remains out.
Selection: Broadway Buffalo
E.W. : Unioniste