It’s always tricky trying to find a winner based on trends that are so conflicting and that’s certainly the case when it comes to analysing this year’s Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Chase field.
The increasing quality of the race has rendered statistics such as the last 14 winners carrying less than 11 stone largely irrelevant when it comes to weighing up this renewal.
But there is one statistic worth noting and that concerns course form, a box ticked by 16/1 chance Eastlake.
The Jonjo O’Neill-trained charge delivered for favourite backers over course and distance back in December, beating a number of his re-opposing Grand Annual rivals.
And that piece of form bodes well for this upcoming assignment given that eight of the last 12 winners have won at Cheltenham before.
Left-handed tracks have been a particularly happy hunting ground for Eastlake with six of his 10 victories under rules achieved when going left-handed and there are likely to be plenty of punters hoping that trend can continue.
At the top of the market, Ned Buntline, Mr Mole and Next Sensation are vying for outright favouritism, each priced at 7/1 respectively.
A victory for Mr Mole would put Paul Nicholls level with the Grand Annual’s leading trainer Fulke Walwyn on three wins, while Next Sensation’s score in a smart novice chase at Doncaster last time out highlights his leading claims.
Burgeoning chasers are often successful in this contest with 14 of the last 15 winners racing no more than 12 times over the larger obstacles.
But with so many opposed statistics even that one may not hold up here.
No winner since 1992 has been rated over 145 since 1992, a negative against Nicholls’ aforementioned first string in a renewal that may well be remembered for a victor who bucked recent trends.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
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