This is one of my favourite races of the year, mainly down to the success over the years but also because of the competitive nature of the race and value which is on offer. It attracts some very good horses and over the years we have been blessed with the likes of Denman, Bobs Worth, Many Clouds and Smad Place soaring to victory.

Two of the named above went on to win a Gold Cup and although I don’t think we have any gold cup winners in this field it is ultra competitive and filled with star quality.

Where to start?

Where else to start other than last years winner SMAD PLACE. He was terrific last year winning by a huge 12 lengths and it was one of the widest margin wins in the race. He jumped well throughout and travelled beautifully. This will be his 3rd time in the race after finishing 5th in 2014 but since that run in the race he has adopted a front running style. SMAD PLACE will need to carry top weight of 11st 12lb which is a tough ask but he does love it around Newbury and his form reads 1151 in 4 visits to the course. The handicapper makes him an 11lb better horse than he was last year. 10/1

The favourite is the Colin Tizzard trained horse NATIVE RIVER at 5/1 and with the form of his trainer he is well respected. He was 2nd in the 4 mile novice chase at the Cheltenham Festival behind Minella Rocco and then won impressively at Aintree in the Mildmay Novices Chase. NATIVE RIVER had a nice spin over hurdles as a prep for this race when finishing 2nd to Silsol. That should’ve put him spot on for this and he will carry 11st 1lb. 11/2

UN POUR TEMPS TOUT is the 2nd favourite and on his day he is a very classy horse. You would want to see a better horse than last year as he was hit and miss last season. He did win the 3 mile handicap chase at the Cheltenham Festival but other than that was disappointing. I think he may be a better horse this season as he was a good winner over hurdles on his prep run for this race, last month at Aintree. He beat Mister Miyagi by 2 lengths over a trip probably short of his best. This is a horse with lots of potential and you like to think he has improved now he is a 2nd season chaser. 8/1

SAPHIR DE RHEU went off 9/2 fav for this race last year and was top weight carrying 11st 12lb rated 163. He comes back this year 10lb lower in the handicap on a mark of 153. SAPHIR DE RHEU finished 5th in this race last year and it was a decent effort looking back. He made a few mistakes and had the burden of carrying top weight. SAPHIR DE RHEU has always been the apple in Paul Nicholls eye and he has always spoken highly of the horse but this season I read an article where he actually said maybe the horse is not as good as we once thought, which was interesting. SAPHIR DE RHEU will carry 10st 12lb this year which is 1 stone lower than last year. He had a nice prep run at Ascot last month and will turn up in great shape for this race. 9/1

VYTA DU ROC looks to be handicapped very well. He is rated 143 by the handicapper and will carry just 10st 3lb. This horse was a two time winner as a novice, one of which was a winner of the Reynoldstown Novices Chase at Ascot last season which is a Grade 2. He beat Minella Rocco that day off level weights and that horse is now rated 159 by the handicapper. VYTA DU ROC then finished 5th in the RSA Chase at Cheltenham before finishing 5th in the Scottish Grand National. Although he finished 5th to Blacklion in the RSA he meets that horse on 1st better terms for this race. Nicky Henderson loves this race and has won it 3 times in 11 years with Trabolgan, Bobs Worth and Trilo D’Alene. 8/1

BLAKLION was the RSA winner at Cheltenham last season and he is a very game horse who is likely to be suited by this test. He lined up for the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby last time out finishing 4th to Irish Cavalier and was 5 lengths behind Cue Card who was 3rd in the race. We all saw what Cue Card done in the Betfair Chase so BLAKLION is likely to come on a lot for the run. The soft ground will also help and he is very much respected. Nigel Twiston Davies horses are running well at the moment. 8/1

And the rest?

HENRI PARRY MORGAN is a horse who is eye-catching. He finished 2nd to todays favourite Native River at Aintree last season but did finish in front of Blacklion and Un Temps Pour Tout who also lines up today. You do have to question whether he has the class to win a race like this but you do have to respect the horse. 10/1

Any bigger prices to note?

Horses who have run well in this race previously are 2013 winner TRILO D’ALENE who is available at 33/1. THEATRE GUIDE finished 2nd last season and 3rd in 2013. He is available at 16/1 which looks decent for E/W backers. HOUBLON DES OBEAUX will love the conditions and always loves it around Newbury. His form at the course reads 462291. He has run in this race for the last 3 seasons finishing 6th in 2013, 2nd in 2014 and 9th last season. This will be the lowest handicap mark he has run off in the race and looks a big price at 16/1.

The verdict

It’s a very tough race and I certainly will being having a dabble on a few horses in this race in order to make a profit. I respect the favourite Native River but he is far too short for me. I also think he wants a marathon trip and they will go to fast for him. I believe you will see him being nudged along quite early on but will stay on at the end of the race.

Un Temps Pour Tout didn’t really do it for me over fences last season and apart from the Cheltenham Festival he was disappointing. He has a handicap mark of 158 and on what he has achieved over fences that likes steep.

Blaklion is respected and is a danger horse but something is telling me he is going to be a nearly horse and I also think some horses rated lower in the handicap are better horses.

SMAD PLACE may carry top weight but he loves it around Newbury and his jumping has always been top draw. Since he adopted front running tactics he has been a revelation. The weight may put a lot of people off but I have asked myself is SMAD PLACE an 8lb better horse than Un Temps Pour Tout? I think he certainly is. I asked the same question with Native River and Blaklion, could he concede 10lb to both those horses? I believe he can.

SMAD PLACE ran a great race at Aintree in his prep run for this race. He finished 4th to Third Intention but it was over a trip way to short for him at 2m 3f. He will come on loads for that run and I think he is a solid E/W bet.

SAPHIR DE RHEU has to enter the equation after finishing 5th off top weight last season. Lets not forget Smad Place finished 5th in his first Hennessy and then he came back and won it last year. He is 10lb lower in the handicap and has a lovely weight to carry. The question I have asked myself is where would’ve he finished on this handicap mark last year and although he may not have beaten Smad Place, he would’ve finished in the frame. Combine this with a few mistakes he made, he still travelled strongly. If SAPHIR DE RHEU has a clear round of jumping I am certain he will go very close. He will come on loads from his first start of the season and is lurking dangerously low in the handicap.

SMAD PLACE 10/1 with most firms – 0.75 POINTS E/W
SAPHIR DE RHEU 9/1 with Bet 365 – 0.75 POINTS E/W


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