ALFIE SHERRIN may not represent much in the way of value given the size of the field, but what he does represent is the most likely winner and is given the vote accordingly; Fredo, Ainama and Prince Erik may follow him home.
Our selection won a handicap at Newbury in nice fashion last time having been given a break following a slightly disappointing run in the early part of winter. A big stamp of a horse, he's surely going to be better when faced with fences but on that win last time he's got a big prize in him over the smaller obstacles and this may be it. He's up 12lbs for winning at Newbury but was really authoritative in victory and the form of that race couldn't have worked out much better with four winners already emerging from it. This is the acid test, but we expect him to find the right answers and prove too strong before making a fine chaser next year.
Fredo is one of the horses who finished in behind Alfie Sherrin at Newbury but Ian Williams' charge has since improved to score at Haydock. Stamina looks very much his strength and the likely fast pace will help, but perhaps this ground is a shade quick and he does have a lot to find with our pick if judged solely on the one time they met. AP prefers Ainama of the JP McManus runners and that looks justified if the horse is back to his best. He's been tried with limited success over fences this year but was placed over the smaller obstacles in a Grade Two at Aintree in the spring, so the move to revert back can pay off with a big run on ground that suits. Mr Thriller is a tempting enough each way bet as he beat Alfie Sherrin off similar terms back in October but it has to be said things haven't quite gone to plan since and he's better when the mud is flying, so those looking for one at a price could do well to turn to Prince Erik.
Dermot Weld's record here isn't the best but don't let that put you off, he's a master-handler and knows what it takes to win big prizes whatever the venue. His gelding is another who has returned to hurdling following some bad mistakes over fences and he's done so well, scoring tidily last time our over this trip. The concern is Irish runners tend to have a bit more weight than they perhaps deserve and he's also shown better form when the ground is cutting up, so the percentage call looks to be to oppose him in terms of finding a selection. Smoking Aces is a fellow Irish raider who steps up in trip and tries the cheek-pieces, two factors which make him hard to assess. He does shape as though he'll stay, but AP presumably could've ridden this horse and the fact he doesn't is enough for us to give him the swerve. Trenchant won well last time in what is traditionally a good race but this lazy sort has enough weight, as does Ballyfitz who is 7lbs higher than when he last raced over timber. Kayf Aramis improved beyond measure last year, landing this race in the process, but he's 20lbs higher and can be taken on despite the fact he ran well last time. The mare Silk Affair won here last year but takes on more experienced rivals and may be found wanting alongside Cross Kennon who has done nothing but improve this year and deserves to be here, but this is where the winning should stop. Your pen may run out of ink whilst writing down the shortlist here, but there's little doubt Alfie Sherrin is the one they all have to beat.
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