Yourartisonfire won this race last season and ought to make a bold attempt to retain his crown.
He has returned in rude health this season and did well to make the frame on his seasonal reappearance at Doncaster. He followed up that effort with a decent win at Nottingham and he is clearly maturing and improving all the time. Joey Haynes has won on the five year old son of Dutch Art in the past and his three pound allowance could prove invaluable in a race of this nature.
Prince Of Johannes has gone well fresh in the past and the more that the ground dries out the more his chances will increase. The last time that Franny Norton rode this grey he was successful and it is of significant interest that he has been tasked with the ride.
Gabrial’s Kaka was well fancied on his seasonal debut where he ultimately disappointed behind Gabrial in the Lincoln. He will strip a lot fitter for that effort, though, and ought to be seen in a much better light this afternoon. Yourartisonfire is clearly in the form of his life and stays this mile trip well. He likes this track and he can make another bold bid.
Somersby found only Dodging Bullets too strong in the Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham where he put together a valiant effort.
Despite being pushed along at several stages of the race he was doing all of his best work in the closing stages, and he actually managed to put a few of these re-opposing rivals well and truly in their places. That was the first time that he had been ridden by Brian Hughes and the young jockey keeps the ride.
Sprinter Sacre has obviously not trained on since his injury and I am personally disappointed that he is turning up here instead of being of retired. If Nicky Henderson has him back to anywhere near his best he would take a lot of beating, but that is a huge if. Special Tiara was a good third in this race last year and the experience gained will stand him in good stead. He is likely to try and make all and if allowed a soft lead he could prove difficult to catch. Somersby has won over further than this in the past and will be staying on dourly when the others have cried enough. The drying ground ought to suit; he has to be high on any shortlist.
The Package landed a sizeable gamble at the Cheltenham Festival and deliberately avoided Aintree in order to take up this engagement.
His trainer David Pipe has him back to somewhere near his best and he has gone well at this track in the past. Tom Scudamore has ridden him plenty in the past and he will be hoping for a first success on this 12 year old veteran. He should enjoy the likely sound surface and if ridden with a bit of restraint he could quite readily make the frame.
Grand Jesture excelled himself when beaten only three lengths by The Druids Nephew in a similar handicap chase at Cheltenham. The latter turned out to be very well handicapped and with all of his rivals having endured long hard seasons he may well make the most of this opportunity and he looks a lively threat. Rocky Creek is the class act in the field but his exertions in the Grand National may well have taken their toll. If The Package turns up in the same rich vein of form that he did at Cheltenham he ought to make the frame yet again.
Saturday 2.20 Haydock Yourartisonfire
Saturday 3.15 Sandown Somersby
Saturday 3.50 Sandown The Package