NAP: Bravemansgame the one to beat
Unbeaten in four starts over fences to date, Bravemansgame was well on top at the finish when seeing off Ahoy Senor in the Kauto Star Novices’ Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day, and he took his form up another notch when giving lumps of weight and a comprehensive beating to some useful opponents in a novice handicap at Newbury last time.
It takes a high-class novice to defy a BHA mark of 159 in the way that Bravemansgame did at Newbury and that form puts him right in the mix here, while the small ‘p’ attached to his Timeform rating denotes that he is likely to progress further.
Crucially, Bravemansgame will also be fresher than chief market rival L’Homme Presse after missing the Cheltenham Festival, so this looks a good opportunity for him to extend his winning sequence over fences to five.
NEXT BEST: Better to come from Banbridge
Banbridge took another big step forward when winning the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival, quickening to lead entering the straight and sticking to his task well from there to land the spoils by a length and a half.
That was a useful performance to defy a BHA mark of 137 and this looks a weak renewal of this Grade 1 in which Banbridge has the strongest form credentials judged on what he achieved in the Martin Pipe.
His strength at the finish suggests the step up to three miles here won’t be an issue, either, and he is fancied to take the step up in grade in his stride to complete a hat-trick.
EACH-WAY: Stick with Sceau Royal
Sceau Royal has been a terrific servant to the Alan King yard over the years and it’s interesting that he is only now tackling two and a half miles for the first time in his career.
Runner-up in the Game Spirit Chase at Newbury last time, he shaped as if the longer trip here will be within his range and that was a high-class effort given that he was conceding 6 lb to the winner, Funambule Sivola, who very much enjoyed the run of the race.
That horse went on to fill the runner-up spot in the Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham, whereas this Grade 1 has always been the plan for Sceau Royal, giving him a possible freshness edge in a wide-open edition of the Marsh Chase.