Paul Nicholls is a master at placing his horses in the right races and runs southfield stone in his first-ever handicap here having run him in Grade One contest more than once over hurdles.
He is against weaker opposition here and I believe the hint should be taken now he switches to handicaps. He was not fit first time over fences - plenty of Nicholls’ runners were getting beat first time out at the start of the season - but he improved to be runner-up against the smart Brewin’upastorm last time out and looks ready to win here.
This horse is clearly well suited by the demands of Newbury and returns to the scene of his Betfair Hurdle victory in 2018. In truth, his form figures over fences do not quite do him justice, but he did nothing wrong when landing a Grade One at Aintree when stepped up in distance from two miles.
He has to get his jumping completely sorted to really show that he is top class over fences and he was a little rusty early on in the Old Roan Chase at Aintree on his reappearance, but hopefully he will have come on from that run and he really does not have to improve to win this despite having to carry top weight.
A number of bookmakers are offering extra places on each-way bets on this race and I would definitely take the maximum number offered on this big-priced runner.
He improved last spring and won a 0-140 handicap at Ascot on his penultimate start. His two runs this term have suggested to me he may well have improved again and the signs were definitely good at Kempton last time where he gradually stayed on from the turn for home to finish an encouraging fourth in a race run at a good pace.
He will be suited by the pace of this competitive affair and could well be value despite some of his rivals seemingly looking less exposed.
Tony Carroll won the race last year and runs Vive Le Roi once again, but Black Buble is my pick with Jonjo O’Neill Jnr back aboard the six-year-old.
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