Timeform's Andrew Asquith recommends a Nap, Next Best and Each-Way selection at Cheltenham on Saturday.
"...has the potential to progress out of handicaps this season..."
NAP: Pirate the one to beat
Sky Pirate has always left the impression he has plenty of ability and he was liberated by a drop back to two miles last season, winning three of his last four starts. The latest of those victories came in the Grand Annual at the Cheltenham Festival over this course and distance and he has the potential to progress out of handicaps this season.
He has a solid enough record when fresh and represents a yard that are in good form at present. There doesn't appear to be much pace in the race on paper, but Voix du Reve can front run so Sky Pirate should get a good enough tow into the race and, though he does have to shoulder top weight, he is a class above these rivals at his best.
NEXT BEST: Stepney Causeway can make all
Only four runners go to post here but there is plenty of quality on show and Stepney Causeway could prove tough to peg back if getting loose on the front end.
A useful performer on the Flat for Michael Bell, he made the same switch as Allmankind and quickly reached a similar level over hurdles, progressing nicely last season and winning his last four starts. Admittedly, the form of his last two victories isn't anything to write home about, both coming in weak events, but there was still plenty to like about the manner of them, and he looks just the type to go on improving for a while yet. The lack of pace will suit him well in this small field and, having undergone a breathing operation since last seen, he could take some pegging back.
EACH WAY: Do the Samba
By Cheltenham standards, this doesn't look the deepest handicap hurdle, and whilst the Paul Nicholls-trained Samarrive could prove a blot on the handicap from an opening mark of 132, he is worth taking on with Fergal O'Brien's Samba Dancer who does look ahead of his mark judged by his success at Stratford last time.
He didn't pull up any trees for Eoin Doyle in Ireland, but he has showed much improved for since switching yards, beaten only by a subsequent winner in a race that has worked out well on debut in August and winning his last two starts. He won with a fair bit in hand last time and a subsequent 6 lb rise looks more than fair, and with a good-value conditional taking off a valuable 3 lb, the hat-trick may well be on.