Timeform bring you their runner-by-runner guide to the Cotswold Chase at Cheltenham on Saturday...
"Fragile sort who may yet do better after just five starts over fences, with return to small field likely to be in his favour, too."
Saturday, 27th January
1. BRISTOL DE MAI (Nigel Twiston-Davies/Daryl Jacob)
Top-class chaser who produced best effort in 2016/17 when winning Peter Marsh Chase at Haydock by 22 lengths. Returned in fine style when landing Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby (by half a length from stablemate Blaklion) in November, and took further step forward when making all in six-runner Betfair Chase back at Haydock later that month, impressively by 57 lengths from Cue Card. Had excuses when well below form in King George VI Chase at Kempton last time (reported to have been suffering from stomach ulcers). Not always shown his best here, but rates the clear one to beat if bouncing back, with conditions expected to be more in his favour (in his element on soft ground).
2. DEFINITLY RED (Brian Ellison/Danny Cook)
Reliable sort who won Rowland Meyrick Chase at Wetherby and Grimthorpe Chase at Doncaster (by 14 lengths from The Last Samuri) in 2016/17. Off seven months, shaped as if needing run when 23 and a half lengths third to Bristol de Mai in Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby, and proved at least as good as ever when winning Many Clouds Chase at Aintree (by seven lengths from Cloudy Dream) last time, making all and staying on strongly. Extremely tough and likeable and should give another good account, with proven form on soft ground.
3. TEA FOR TWO (Nick Williams/Lizzie Kelly)
Won graduation event at Exeter and Bowl Chase at Aintree (by neck from Cue Card) in 2016/17. Improved for reappearance, though well-held, when fourth to Bristol de Mai in Betfair Chase at Haydock in November, shaping better than distance beaten suggests (found test too much in testing conditions). Ran right up to his best when three lengths third to Might Bite in King George VI Chase at Kempton last time, benefiting from being held up in strongly-run race. Cannot be discounted on that form, though suspicion is he may be more effective on a flatter track.
4. PERFECT CANDIDATE (Fergal O'Brien/Paddy Brennan)
Won veterans' handicap chase at Exeter in 2016/17, and showed benefit of return when also winning eight-runner Grade 3 handicap here (by neck from Vicente) in November, idling late on but holding on gamely. Ran no sort of race in 14-runner Veterans' Handicap Chase Final at Sandown last time, however, racing lazily (not for the first time). Goes well here, but difficult to fancy in this company.
5. THEATRE GUIDE (Colin Tizzard/Harry Cobden)
Smart chaser who won Grade 3 handicap over C&D (by nose from Perfect Candidate) in 2016/17 and produced even better effort when neck third to Henllan Harri in bet365 Gold Cup at Sandown on final start that season. Off seven months, looked as good as ever when eight lengths third to Present Man in Badger Ales Trophy Handicap Chase at Wincanton last time, keeping on well. Invariably runs his race, but out of his depth at this level and will likely struggle to better his 36 lengths third in this race in 2016.
6. AMERICAN (Harry Fry/Noel Fehily)
Fairly useful hurdler who has quickly developed into a much better chaser, winning novice at Exeter, listed novice at Warwick and novice handicap at Uttoxeter (impressive, by eight lengths from Rock The Kasbah) in 2016/17. Off nine months and well backed, found out by lack of experience when pulled up in Ladbrokes Trophy won by Total Recall at Newbury last time, jumping sketchily (reportedly suffered an overreach and lost shoe). Fragile sort who may yet do better after just five starts over fences, with return to small field likely to be in his favour, too. Acts on soft going.
7. SINGLEFARMPAYMENT (Tom George/Adrian Heskin)
Good-topped gelding who won novice over C&D (by two and a half lengths from Arpege d'Alene) in 2016/17, and produced even better effort in defeat when short head second to Un Temps Pour Tout in Ultima Handicap back here on final start that season. Shaped encouragingly on first two starts this term, including when falling three out in Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury in November, keeping on at the time and likely to have been placed at worst. Failed to build on that when only respectable 11 and three quarter lengths fifth to Gold Present in Silver Cup at Ascot last time, though delivering challenge from further back than principals.
8. THE LAST SAMURI (Kim Bailey/David Bass)
High-class handicap chaser who enjoyed productive 2015/16 season, winning handicap at Kempton and Grimthorpe Chase at Doncaster before good six lengths second to Rule The World in Grand National at Aintree. Produced best effort in 2016/17 when length third to Vieux Lion Rouge in Becher Chase back at Aintree, and showed benefit of return when nine lengths second to Blaklion in corresponding race last time, sticking to task well. Tough and genuine sort who would appear to hold sound place claims, though this is a rare start in open Graded company.
Timeform Cotswold Chase 1-2-3
2. Bristol de Mai
3. The Last Samuri
Timeform Cotswold Chase Analyst's Verdict
AMERICAN can't have been right in the Ladbroke on his reappearance and is worth another chance as he'd looked set for the top over fences when a most impressive winner of all 3 starts last season. Bristol de Mai is the big danger if a return to a soft surface sparks him back to his best, while The Last Samuri looks sure to give it his usual good shot.