Given a fine ride by today's jockey when winning this 12 months ago. Ground perhaps more of an issue than the 7lb higher mark, given he was withdrawn from Punchestown recently because of testing conditions. More competition for the lead this time, and it's unlikely he'll be able to set his own fractions, so has quite a bit more on his plate.
Now 10lbs higher than when winning his last start in a handicap (by a short-head) and rated better than his two starts this spring, when faced with a farce in Dubai and then when racing too keenly at Kempton earlier this month. Talented, but yet to prove he really stays this sort of trip and yet to race on ground slower than good.
Reliable grey who reached the zenith of his career to date when staying on best to land the Northumberland Plate last June. Subsequent third here over a shorter trip was full of merit, as he raced wide throughout and had to come from off the pace. Unlikely that he has much in hand with the assessor but must go close if fully tuned up for this first start of the year.
Looked ill at ease on the track when seventh here in August, and is held by several of today's rivals on that run. However he won nicely on his reppearance at Doncaster and then wasn't disgraced in Listed company at Nottingham. Looks on a high enough mark but handles all types of ground and has a nice draw too.
Second in this race in 2009 on quick ground, but well-held the next year and has struggled for consistency for some time. However his record fresh is pretty good and he handles soft ground, so he shouldn't be cast asunder too quickly. Having said that, his draw in 17 and his hold-up style means that this looks a very tough task.
Visored for the first time on this, his third start for Ian Williams since leaving Dermot Weld. Owner has a good record with his purchases and always targets big handicaps/this meeting, so whilst his chance isn't blindingly obvious, there is a chance that this son of Oasis Dream could be well-handicapped off 97, having run well in Group races earlier in his career.
Has a good record on the Roodee, having waltzed away with a soft-ground handicap here last June before finishing second to Debussy later in the season. That horse rated 110 at the time so he looks fairly-treated on a mark of 97, and his last run can be forgotten (nearly ran out at Kempton), however he is unproven past 12 furlongs and this might be a bridge too far.
Gulf Of Naples
Highly-thought-of and progressive young stayer who comes here on the back of a walk in the park at Ripon, for which he has a 3lb penalty (7lb higher in future). Cut in the ground seems important to him so has ideal conditions, however his draw in 19 is a nightmare and jockey Franny Norton has a real choice; sit and suffer or try and go hard early on to get a good position. Not easy, but is a horse on the up.
Never Can Tell
Improved with each start last season, culminating in a fine win in the Cesarewitch when given a fine front-running ride by today's jockey. 7lb higher mark not insurmountaable for the mare, espeically as she has won two of her four starts at the track, however she'll face plenty of competition for the lead and the ground must be a real concern (one awful run on soft to her name).
Had to sit and suffer in midfield when third in this race last year, doing the best of those who didn't race prominently. 2lb lower mark this time around gives him an obvious chance, however he's not always been the most consistent. Losing run goes back to October 2010 and whilst Paul Hanagan is a positive booking, a wide draw means that he could be a prisoner to fortune once again unless they go too quickly up front.
Merchant Of Dubai
Signed off for the Flat season with a fine third to Zuider Zee in the November Handicap, so slightly disappointing that he couldn't oblige in two winnable hurdle races over the winter. Hasn't tasted success for a while so handicap mark is edging slowly down to a reasonable one but has done most of his winning on galloping tracks and it remains to be seen whether this course will suit.
Has his first start for Chris Grant today, although Kieren Fallon knows him well, having ridden him to three victories when trained by Luca Cumani. Always looked a stayer of some potential, albeit a bit big and weak at times, but if he has progressed again for a summer break then he could run well at a price. Seemed to handle the course fine when second here in September but worry would be that he's normally needed at least one run back before hitting some form.
Ile De Re
Not a great draw in 13 but likely to be held up anyway so might not be a huge obstacle assuming they go a decent pace. Has had a decent time over hurdles this winter, including two wins on soft ground and a decent midfield finish in the Imperial Cup. Handles the ground, ran well here last season behind Tominator (denied a clear run) and looks a fascinating contender for last-year's winning stable.
Two out of two on soft ground since being stepped up in trip, and although he isn't proven over this far, he shapes as if he'll stay. Closely related to Chester Vase winner Golden Sword, and as his dam is from the family of Alexandrova, there's plenty of class in his bloodlines. Plenty in his favour, except a wide draw, and he should strip fitter for a recent Leopardstown reappearance.
Only 2lb higher than when successful at York in August and subsequent flop at Newmarket can be forgotten as his form figures there read 7-5-3-15-13-23. Won his sole start on the Roodee a few years ago and has won on his seasonal reappearance before, so not one to discount from the inside draw in one.
He might be five but hasn't had much racing, only seeing the track once last season, but winning comprehensively at Musselburgh last month on this year's debut. Looks a stout galloper so this sort of test will suit, as will the ground, however there must be some doubt over whether this track will be ideal for this sizeable gelding. Has a good draw to start from though, and commands lots of respect.
They left Overturn and Eddie Ahern alone last year and you'd hope the jockeys won't make the same mistake twice. With horses such as Shubaat, Never Can Tell, Gulf Of Naples and stablemate Eternal Heart in hte race, all of whom have made the running in the past, there looks likely to be a contest for the lead and that could easily scupper the chance of last-year's winner on ground softer than ideal. Preference is for his stablemate ILE DE RE who looked unlucky when beaten by Tominator here last season and who comes here fit from a good season over hurdles. The ground is fine, as is the track, and he looks a good price to boot. The aforementioned Tominator will be a big danger if fully tuned up for this comeback run, whilst Harrison's Cave is related to some excellent horses, who stayed well, and looks the pick of the rest. The track must be a worry for fans of Shubaat who looks a relentless galloper.