Six of the last nine renewals of this race have been won by a Paul Nicholls’ trained runner so it would be foolish to dismiss the chances of Capitaine despite the step up in grade. A grade 2 winner over hurdles and now unbeaten in two over fences he looks a smart prospect and at early odds of around 7/2 offers a bit more value than the short priced favourite River Wylde and recent course and distance winner North Hill Harvey.
Fox Norton won this race last year and has an excellent record both over course and distance and when returning from a break so, despite the short odds, looks the one to follow here.
Last years’ Champion Chase winner Special Tiara will likely make the running and ensure it is a truly run race, however had to make do with third in this race last year and usually needs his first run to blow away the cobwebs so is best watched today.
With this in mind the biggest danger looks to be Cloudy Dream who is yet to finish outside the first two when racing over fences and should be race fit following an excellent second in the Old Roan Chase at Aintree last month.
FOX NORTON (WIN)
The eye is immediately drawn to The New One at the top of the weights. Undoubtedly a high class performer, his Cheltenham record of six wins from twelve speaks for itself and its unlikely he will be too far away at the finish. That said, this looks to be a tough race with many considered in with a chance and it won’t be easy giving away so much weight so some of his rivals.
Jenkins was winner on debut and twice when returning from a break so there should be no issues with fitness and with a couple of hurdle victories already to his name he should be in the mix here.
Mohaayed only had one rival to beat when last seen but couldn’t have been any more impressive in doing so, winning by twelve lengths with the minimum of fuss, and wasn’t far away in the County Hurdle at last years’ festival. With both trainer and jockey in excellent recent form he’s the one i’m opting for today.
15:30 CHELTENHAM - (BET OF THE DAY)
Nicky Henderson has won this race with Altior and Vyta Du Roc in recent years and looks to have a great chance of landing the spoils again with his runner Dame De Compagnie. She opened her account for the Lambourn trainer at the first time of asking, winning at Uttoxeter in very impressive fashion despite the winning distance only being two lengths. A similar run here would make her very difficult to beat.
Slate House is another with a bright future, winning a point-to-point before moving to Colin Tizzard and winning on debut over hurdles with the minimum of fuss. With Bedrock disappointing last time out and the remaining two needing to improve to figure, Slate House looks the biggest danger to the selection.
DAME DE COMPAGNIE (WIN) - NAP