There are a couple of former winners who could take their chance on Saturday in the shape of No Duffer (2016) and Sego Success (2015), the latter perhaps the best handicapped of the two. Sego Success is now a nine-year-old, but he did shape well on his return from six months off at Warwick in October, and is clearly of interest from this sort of mark. He hasn't won since taking this race in 2015 from a 3 lb higher mark - also finished fourth to No Duffer 12 months ago from 5 lb higher - but he has likely been targeted at this again by Alan King and he ought to make his presence felt.
No Duffer, on the other hand, is 3 lb higher in the weights than for last year's success, and he offered little on his first start for seven months when pulled up in a veterans' chase at Chepstow in October. He does tend to come on for his first run after a break, but he will need to if he's to take a hand here, and there are perhaps more solid options elsewhere.
Emma Lavelle won back-to-back renewals of this good-quality handicap in 2011 and 2012 and Vibrato Valtat is potentially well handicapped now. He hasn't won since November 2015, and gradually lost his way for Paul Nicholls in 2016/17, but he did hint at a return to form when fourth at Newbury earlier this month on just his second start for Lavelle. That was a useful handicap over two and a half miles, and he did plug on in the closing stages so, despite never having tried three miles in his career to date, he is worth a try at this trip and isn't without hope.
Another who has his stamina to prove is the Nigel Twiston-Davies-trained Ballybolley, who has been kept relatively busy through the summer period, posting a career-best effort when winning at Market Rasen in September by four lengths from Guitar Pete (who has subsequently boosted the form). Ballybolley finished third at Aintree from this mark last time and, though he isn't proven over three miles, he has run over the trip before, finishing second in a listed event at Sandown, so he should continue to give a good account.
The consistent Master Dee finished six lengths in front of Ballybolley when runner-up in the aforementioned Aintree race last time. He managed to win three times over fences in his novice season, and is still improving judged on his latest run. The step back up to three miles will pose no problem for Fergal O'Brien's runner and this likable sort looks set to play a leading role, despite his mark continuing to rise without winning.
When looking at Flintham's pedigree - a brother to Hennessey and Welsh National winner Carruthers and half-brother to Gold Cup winner Coneygree - it's baffling that this useful hurdler is yet to win over fences, but he shaped well on his first run for nine months in a three-runner novice at Exeter just over a fortnight ago and he remains with potential as a chaser. The one concern with him is his handicap mark, as he looks high enough in the weights considering what he has achieved over fences, but if returning to the form of his Reynoldstown second last season he is entitled to be involved.
Like Flintham, Kilcrea Vale and Virgilio are second season chasers, and both are of obvious interest here. The former was well backed at Ascot last time and, though he didn't run to form, he's entitled to come on for that first run in six months, and connections believe he is still fairly treated. The step up to three miles isn't sure to suit, though.
Virgilio can boast some strong novice form and was an impressive winner of a three-mile handicap at Aintree in May. He failed to meet expectations at the same course on his return from a break over two and a half miles last month, but he is worth forgiving that run, and a flat, left-handed track seems to bring out the best in him, so it would be no surprise were he to bounce back.
This looks a very open renewal and, having shaped well on his return in October, 2015 winner Sego Success has every chance from a handicapping perspective, but it could pay to side with one of the less exposed second season chasers. The ones that stand out are Master Dee, Kilcrea Vale and Virgilio, and though the first-named has a very solid profile and seems sure to run his race, preference is for Virgilio who is fancied to bounce back from a poor run last time. He looked well ahead of his mark when winning at Aintree in May and, if you ignore his latest effort, he would likely be favourite for this.
Back Vigilio to win the bet365 Handicap Chase