1pt win Sam Winner @16/1, Wetherby 15:05

A top-class race at a very tricky part of the National Hunt season. The big guns are still making their seasonal bows and the form is clouded by lack of race fitness and future targets.

Menorah won this last year in fine style but doesn’t get his ground today, and this looks a tougher assignment. There’s no value in his price at 13/2 so he’s passed.

Many Clouds, the Grand National winner, is the headline act on his seasonal reappearance. He won first time out last year and seems to act on all ground, which bodes well for his chances. This is his prep race for the Hennessy next month and the long-term target is to defend his Aintree crown. I’m not sure him winning this will affect his handicap mark, so he should be ridden to win. 7/1 might just be on the generous side as there are a few in opposition who aren’t out-and-out stayers and the three-mile trip might stretch them.

Another who is likely to need the run is Holywell, one of my favourite horses in training, who flopped on his first two appearances last year before finding form in the Gold Cup when possibly being undone by soft ground. The soft ground won’t be ideal, then, while Jonjo O’Neil is a canny target trainer and I’m expecting the horse to need the run ahead of future targets.

David Pipe’s Dynaste has had a run, having been well beaten at Auteuil a few weeks back, but three miles has never been his trip at the highest level, despite three good placed efforts behind Silviniaco Conti in recent years. He receives 10lbs from Many Clouds, which gives him a big chance at the weights and is fair value at 7/2.

Ballynagour, also trained by Pipe, should enjoy the ground and also receives 10lbs but hasn’t gone well fresh in the past and he’s the stable’s second string for this. His trainer isn’t making the right noises about his chances but there’s no doubting his ability.

Cue Card is probably past his best now and three miles just isn’t his trip. He’s another making his seasonal debut and, now a 9/2 favourite, doesn’t appeal at the prices. Expect him to be out-stayed.

Paul Nicholls runs Sam Winner, who also goes well fresh and looks overpriced at 16/1 – even more so given the rain that’s fallen. His trainer cleaned up last season in these big Saturday races and will be realistic about his ambitions for this horse, given his inability so far to win a big peak-season chase.This might represent the perfect target with his chief rivals having one eye on future engagements so he’s taken to upset the odds. His third place in last season’s Lexus is his stand-out piece of form, but he also gave notable chasers The Druid’s Nephew, Holywell and Ma Filleule – who runs in the race prior to this – beatings early last season, so he’s certainly got the ability to mix it at this level. Stamina is his forte and I don’t see the 10lbs he has to give to Dynaste, Cue Card and Ballynagour hindering him too much, given he stays further and gets his ground.

1pt win Sam Winner @16/1, Wetherby 15:05

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