KALASHNIKOV is gunning for the big chase prizes this season and can take this hot handicap in his stride. He ended last season with a Grade 1 win at Aintree after being knocked over in the Arkle when going well.
His return ahead of Frodon in the Grade 2 Old Roan Chase at the home of the National was a good effort, especially given half the fences were missed out because of low sun.
That should see him spot on fitness-wise and a galloping track on soft ground is right up his street.
O O Seven came back to form when winning at the Punchestown Festival in May. He enjoyed dropping back to this sort of trip there and has gone well fresh before. He’s a threat at an each-way price.
Glen Forsa lost his way a little late last term after looking a nice prospect when winning a Sandown Grade 2. He’s shot up the weights but the rest will have done him good.
Azzerti battled well to win over course and distance on comeback. This is tougher but he has more to offer.
Gala Ball has plenty of good form around here and battled well to win last time in March. He starts this season from a fair mark and this trip is ideal.
San Benedeto won a big race here ahead of Gala Ball in March but has been below par three times since. He could have a say if finding his best form.
CHAMP can be a knockout in his first big test over fences. He won a couple of Grade 1s over hurdles last season in between an excellent second in the Ballymore at Cheltenham.
He looked a natural when scoring here on his chasing debut last time and can take another step forward. He drops back in distance but that holds no fears.
Black Op was just short of top-class over timber and cruised to victory returning to fences at Stratford last month. He jumped particularly well and has clearly conquered the issues that plagued him this time last year. He likes it soft and will give the favourite plenty to think about.
Dashel Drasher wasn’t helped by losing two shoes when chasing home Champ here latest. He is open to improvement from that debut but has a fair gap to bridge with the big two.
Deyrann De Carjac has won comfortably on his two spins over fences and showed good pace at Huntingdon. This is much tougher but he’s on the upgrade.
Vision Des Flos won a Grade 2 over hurdles and is worth a look as he tackles his first chase for in-form Colin Tizzard.
PAISLEY PARK won the Sun Racing Stayers’ Hurdle in great style at Cheltenham last time out. He came from a mile back and even survived ploughing through the final flight to score with plenty in hand.
He has won first-time-out for the past two seasons so he’ll be ready to perform here. The trip is ideal and his win at Haydock last year shows he handles a park track like Newbury.
Unowhatimeanharry has won two of the past three runnings of this and some give in the ground is ideal. He went well enough when second on comeback at Wetherby and won nicely at Punchestown before that in May. He looks the biggest threat but needs his very best to win.
The Worlds End got the better of him in Yorkshire when loving the heavy going. His 6lb penalty for that success should bring them closer together.
Thistlecrack has been running well in the main over fences and won the Stayers’ Hurdle way back in 2016. The Tizzard horses are in good form but he needs to roll back the years and may need the run.
Beer Goggles was a Grade 2 winner before his long break but will surely need this comeback from 671 days off.
AS I SEE IT came back from 18 months off to win well at Exeter last month. That was only his second handicap start and he was value for a bit more than the half-length margin. A 5lb rise in the weights looks fair and he can make up for lost time.
Dolphin Square is thrown into the deep end for this handicap debut after winning a battle at Wincanton. His owner-rider went with hands and heels there so there could be a lot more to come.
Telson Barley looks a big price after a solid effort at Kelso last time. He stays well and could easily run into the places.
Vive Le Roi is proven in this grade, likes some cut and has plenty of stamina. He unseated his rider early on at Aintree last time and is capable of better.
Champers On Ice had plenty in hand when winning on comeback at Ffos Las. This is a tougher race but today’s distance is ideal so he can’t be ruled out.
Anytime Will Do was rusty on comeback at Market Rasen last month and can do better for the Skeltons.
Samburu Shujaa wasn’t disgraced in the Pertemps Final at Cheltenham after a couple of lesser wins and has more to offer.
12.15 Coconut Splash
12.45 Encore Champs
1.20 Shan Blue (nb)
1.50 KALASHNIKOV (NAP)
3.00 Paisley Park
3.35 As I See It (treble)
12.55 Young Tiger
1.30 Elysee Star
2.00 L’Inganno Felice
2.35 Bo Samraan
3.10 Global Humour
3.45 Suitcase N Taxi
4.15 Odds On Oli
4.30 Buy Me Back
5.00 Bee Able
7.00 Royal Dancer
7.30 Sonnet Rose