Top Notch will be hard to beat if reproducing Cheltenham form
Manifesto Novices' Chase | 2m4f | Grade 1 | 5yo+ | RUK
Top Notch will be a warm order to give Nicky Henderson's title bid a significant boost in this £100,000 novice after finding only Yorkhill too good in the JLT Novices' Chase at Cheltenham last month.
There was no disgrace there, as Yorkhill is plainly an outstanding prospect, and prior to that Top Notch had looked every bit as good a chaser as he was a hurdler, rattling off four successive wins after a shock defeat first time out over fences.
Paul Nicholls had three options here and relies upon the splendid Frodon, who has been a major contributor to the trainer's coffers this season with six wins. They include the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup at Cheltenham in December, where he beat seasoned handicappers off a mark of 149, and in the three-finisher Pendil Novices' Chase at Kempton.
Malcolm Jefferson's Cloudy Dream, second to Henderson's Altior in the Racing Post Arkle Chase, is another with serious claims.
Captain Conan is the race's only winning favourite, although no winner has started at longer odds than 11-2 since its inception as a Grade 2 in 2009.
Nicky Henderson bids for a third win following success with Mad Max in 2008 and Captain Conan in 2013.
What they say
Malcolm Jefferson, trainer of Cloudy Dream
He's in very good order and I couldn't be happier with him. The return to two and a half miles should suit him and he goes to Aintree with a great chance, although I suppose we've got another of Mr Henderson's to beat.
Ben Pauling, trainer of Cyrius Moriviere
We are under no illusions, he’s very much up against it. He’ll make a nice second-season novice next year and I said to the owners that on the off-chance he wins here it would be a better way to lose his novice status than winning a small race somewhere else. I still think he’s one of the best jumpers we’ve got - he’s had a lot of bad luck.
Nigel Twiston-Davies, trainer of Flying Angel
He was very unlucky and so nearly brought down at Cheltenham. He just had a canter round to finish sixth so had a less hard race than the others, having been knocked out almost straight away.
Paul Nicholls, trainer of Frodon
Hopefully we've placed him well and he's been a legend. He's had a break since the Pendil, which was always the plan, and he's mad fresh. He'll love the ground and love the track. It looks perfect for him.
Tom George, trainer of Max Ward
He loves the good ground and won well last time. It’s a competitive race, but he’s in cracking form and we thought it might be his last chance to run against novices.
Nicky Henderson, trainer of Top Notch
Unfortunately you really can't tell if they are over Cheltenham until you run them, but he looks very well and has been consistent all season. He's got a great chance if he runs to his best.