If there is a familiar sight associated with the Old Roan Chase at Aintree, it is of a grey horse producing a governing front-running performance that effectively grinds the rest of the field into submission.
Monet’s Garden blazed the trail in 2007, 2009 and 2010, with the last of these successes coming at the elderly age of 12.
His racing career may now be over, but the 2016 running of the Old Roan Chase includes an entrant with a suitable amount in common.
Smad Place is another grey who has been known in the past to take on front-running duties.
Almost 12 months ago he raced prominently in the Hennessy Gold Cup, taking up the running around the midway point and then maintaining a strong gallop, alongside an error-free round of jumping, which ultimately the rest of the field couldn’t live with.
He then showed a good turn of foot to surge clear over the final two fences, eventually winning by 12 lengths.
Alan King’s horse then produced a similar performance to take the Cotswold Chase at Cheltenham in January, with both races contested over distances just beyond 3m.
There is little denying that leading from the off is the best tactic for Smad Place, especially if he can establish a reliable jumping rhythm early on to put the pressure on his rivals.
And such tactics could be vital in the Old Roan Chase over the 16 fences of Aintree’s Mildmay Course as he is the only proven stayer in the line-up.
As Smad Place drops back in trip to 2m4f, most of his opposition have stamina to prove. The likes of Sire De Grugy, Three Musketeers and God’s Own, who hails from the same Tom George yard as Monet’s Garden, have all done most of their racing previously over 2m.
Smad Place is 7/1 to land the Old Roan Chase, which is the average winning SP across the last 12 runnings, and the only thing potentially against him is that he competes off top weight thanks to a handicap mark of 167.
Winning this will take a career-best performance, but if allowed to bowl along in front and push the pace, it is more than achievable.
Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing