China Rock was back to best in first-time tongue tie when showing unexpected stamina reserves to win the Punchestown Gold Cup by 5 lengths from Follow The Plan. Needs to be at the top of his game on reappearance.
First Lieutenant has already posted 2 cracking efforts this season, second in the James Nicholson at Down Royal before chasing home Bobs Worth and Tidal Bay in the Hennessy, best of those ridden prominently in both.
Flemenstar is a bold jumper who has developed into a top-class chaser at 2m to 2½m, ending the unbeaten run of Sir des Champs in the John Durkan last time. Will be hard to beat if he can last home over 3m.
Hidden Cyclone boasts an impressive strike-rate and has earned this step up in class with wins at Naas and Gowran this season. However, did come up short in a Grade 2 novice here last term and needs to improve.
Midnight Chase landed a Grade 2 at Cheltenham in January. Satisfactory return to the fray when third in Charlie Hall at Wetherby last month, but looks to hold place claims at best here.
Pandorama pulled out a high-class performance to win this by 6 lengths in 2010/11 but not seen since mid-field in that season's Gold Cup and needs to be well primed and as good as ever to have any chance.
Quito de la Roque got up late to collar a spent Sizing Europe in last season's James Nicholson at Down Royal but only third on all 3 starts since, including this corresponding race. Needs a thorough test of stamina.
Sir des Champs won first 8 starts under Rules, including a Grade 1 novice (25f) at Punchestown in April, but came unstuck behind Flemenstar in the John Durkan on reappearance. Return to 3m will suit.
Tidal Bay is an enigmatic performer but rejuvenated by current trainer, running a huge race under top weight when second to Bobs Worth in the Hennessy at Newbury last time.
2. Sir des Champs
3. Hidden Cyclone
Timeform View: Flemenstar has developed into a top-class chaser and, while his stamina for 3m is not guaranteed, the manner of his recent victory over Sir des Champs certainly indicated that this trip should be within his reach and he should prove hard to beat. Sir des Champs rates the biggest danger, with First Lieutenant, Tidal Bay and Hidden Cyclone all respected in a high-class renewal.
Half-price Race Passes with brand new features - In-Play Hints, Running Notes & Warning Horses. And get a FREE gift too! Find out more at timeform.com.