This is an exciting renewal with no less than five entries rated over 160.
Riverside Theatre is the top rated horse with a mark of 170 and, unsurprisingly, also heads the market. He has won six out of his nine chases and runs here on the back of an extremely hard fought victory in the Grade One Ryanair Chase at the Cheltenham Festival. Prior to Cheltenham all of his best form had been when racing as a fresh horse and he had yet to prove his ability to run to his best after a short break.
Despite his battling display at Cheltenham there has to be a chance that the race will have left its mark; furthermore, he has yet to prove his stamina for this contest – on his only previous try at three miles in the 2011 King George, the race fell apart badly and proved very little. Riverside Theatre has an excellent win-to-run ratio and is a horse to oppose at your peril; nevertheless, he also tends to be shorter in the market than his true chances merit and, for that reason, I will be happy to look elsewhere, provided he maintains his current price of about 7/2.
Medermit was a close third in the Ryanair Chase but is another horse trading too short (currently about 5/1) with stamina to prove. Burton Port will have no trouble with the trip, though he did have a tough race last time out in a particularly gruelling Gold Cup. Connections were worried about the bounce factor at Cheltenham, so that energy-sapping contest has to be of some concern here. Despite the fact that he has as good a chance as any in the race, those minor negatives are off-putting enough at his current odds of about 7/2.
Nacarat won this contest last season; however, that was a particularly weak affair as the two horses following him home were rated 153 and 146 respectively. He has always been found wanting when racing against this level of performer in the past and is likely to do so again here. Carruthers and Diamond Harry could run well at big prices while all of Master Of The Hall’s winning form has come when competing in races with few runners.
Hunt Ball is one of the few progressive horses in the field and may well be suited to this step up in trip. He will have to improve again to take a hand in the finish here but could easily do so having improved so much in such a short space of time. What A Friend won this event in 2010 and has reasonable claims again here. The concern with him is that he took a crashing fall last time out; therefore, we will need to see a double-figure price for him to compensate for that important negative.
With doubts about several of the shorter-priced horses this looks a race to have a pop at one or two horse just beyond the market leaders. Carruthers is inconsistent but at his best could run well. He was second in this race two years ago and could easily outrun his current price of 40/1.
Diamond Harry has very little spring form to his name but if his recent wind operation makes a difference he definitely has the class to be competitive here. His last run can be forgiven as he has never appeared to run to his best in chases at Cheltenham. His best form is on flat, left-handed tracks and it would be no surprise to see him come back to form at Aintree and run above his current price of 20/1.
This is a race where few of the contenders will be suited to the day and, although there has to be plenty of concerns regarding Diamond Harry; in the context of this race, his current odds are just too big. Both Carruthers and Diamond Harry will be best on good to soft or soft going.
The two that look as strong as any are Hunt Ball and What A Friend both of whom should be suited to the conditions of the day provided the ground is no softer than good to soft.
It is a long way up the Aintree straight and in particular between the last two fences. Any stamina limitations tend to be found out, which is why both Riverside Theatre and Medermit are too short in the market to be viable betting propositions.