Classy performers bid to finally stake their claims as promising chasers
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Five of the eight runners could be described as well treated over fences if they are able to reproduce their best hurdle runs.
Lord Napier, Aye Aye Charlie, Larkbarrow Lad, Rockpoint and Run To Milan are rated 9lb, 8lb, 7lb, 8lb and 13lb lower respectively in chases than hurdles. Jumping, though, is the name of the game and some have seen their progress since switched to fences halted by making a series of errors.
Aye Aye Charlie, who unseated his rider when favourite for a 3m Ludlow handicap chase last February, again made mistakes behind The Ferry Master at Newcastle on his latest start, while Larkbarrow Lad’s jumping also lacked fluency during his defeat over this course and distance in November.
He has been given another wind operation since his last run, which is the third time the eight-year-old has undergone corrective surgery for his breathing.
Larkbarrow Lad’s form figures after his first wind op read 121, and he was high in the weights when recording a series of defeats following his second bout of surgery.
Drying ground may suit Zyon better than the soft surface he encountered at Ascot when only seventh behind Emir Sacree over hurdles in December. While this is his first venture over fences, he is sure to have been well schooled.
Lord Napier acts well on a soft surface, but seems equally effective on faster terrain and a strong case could be argued for him based on his Chepstow second to Ask Me Early in December.
If Peter Bowen’s charge jumps fluently on just his fifth chase start and gets into a good rhythm, he could be the one to beat.
Race analysis by Richard Birch
What they say
Fergal O'Brien, trainer of Aye Aye Charlie
I think the nicer ground will definitely help. We've saved him for slightly better ground as he ran well on it at Hereford on his penultimate start and then disappointed a bit when it was slightly easier next time. Charlie is a law unto himself, but hopefully he can run well. It's a nice race for him and great place to start back with the lovely fences there.
Joe Tizzard, assistant to Colin Tizzard, trainer of Rockpoint and Butterwick Brook
Rockpoint is a classy horse who hasn't performed that well of late, but he's dropping in the handicap and on his best form he's well handicapped. We're struggling a bit with him at the moment though. Butterwick Brook is consistent and good around Exeter. It was really heavy ground last time and I think nicer conditions will help him.
Paul Nicholls, trainer of Zyon
The ground was too heavy for him at Ascot last time. He wants better ground, which is why he hasn't run since. The dry forecast is ideal and he's been wanting fences too. I'm hopeful of a nice run as he'd won well around Wincanton before that Ascot outing – he's just a good-ground horse.
Reporting by James Burn
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