Nicholls factor gives Cristal Bonus edge for Ladbrokes Chase
Paul Nicholls has developed a bit of a love affair with the Ladbrokes Chase in recent seasons and Cristal Bonus is his only entrant that will attempt to extend his stranglehold to five successive campaigns.
Cristal Bonus is currently one of two joint favourites at 7/4 and certainly has the scope for vast improvement as he prepares for a first race outside of novice company.
Having run no sort of race at the Cheltenham Festival in the Jewson, Cristal Bonus looked back close to his best when chasing home Menorah in a Grade One at Aintree.
Although his form towards the end of last season hinted that he would appreciate a step up to 3m, he is a dual winner over the Ladbrokes Chase distance of 2m4f.
Meanwhile, Nicholls knows what it takes to train the winner of the Down Royal contest, having saddled each of the last four victors.
Noland began the dominance in 2008, with Herecomesthetruth, The Nightingale and Kauto Stone adding their names to the roll of honour since.
Cristal Bonus is arguably better than the last three of these and comes into the race with many similarities to the trio, notably in terms of his Racing Post Rating and the weight he has been allocated for the Ladbrokes Chase.
Nicholls does not only count the profits from this race, but from Down Royal in general, sending eight horses to the circuit in the last five National Hunt seasons and celebrating six winners in this time.
If his winning streak is to end, then the conqueror is nailed on to be one of the four entrants owned by the Gigginstown House Stud, with Bog Warrior the big danger and the other joint favourite.
He will attempt to lead from start to finish and is normally an assured jumper, but may not have the depths of stamina of his fellow favourite.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.