Urgent Swift: Not disgraced over hurdles in recent months. Unproven beyond a mile and a half on the level. Idles in front so needs to be ridden patiently.
Merit: Winner of the 1996 Chester Cup. Very lightly raced but showed he retains ability when sixth to Opaque at Doncaster in November on soft ground. Sometimes looks a quirky character.
Ivor's Flutter: Eighth to Turnpole in the Cesarewitch on the second of just two outings on the Flat last year. Has been running well over hurdles this winter. Not always consistent but could run well here.
Valagalore: Has plenty of scope and looked a nice stayer in the making when winning at Catterick and Haydock last season. Fair 11th to Turnpole in the Cesarewitch on her final start. Capable of further improvement and Pat Eddery is an interesting booking.
Sudest: Raced consistently in 1998, winning three times and running one of his best races when a strong-finishing third to High Intrigue and Little Acorn at Sandown in July. Has run respectably on soft and could be thereabouts.
Foreign Rule: Changed stables after winning for Peter Chapple-Hyam at Haydock last July and tailed off on sole subsequent Flat attempt. Fit from hurdling.
Fabillion: Overcame a long absence to make Turnpole fight all the way at Doncaster a fortnight ago and, providing he does not succumb to the "bounce" (horses sometimes perform badly if running too quickly after a good reappearance), should go well. Well handicapped.
Venetian Scene: Beaten over hurdles recently. Has not run on the Flat since winning a minor handicap at Leicester nearly a year ago. Will probably appreciate soft ground.
Sea Freedom: Rewarded his long-suffering devotees with three victories in 1997, having previously been a frustrating maiden. Lack of a run is disconcerting but, judged on his fine win in the Ascot Stakes last June (2m 4f), he will be staying on better than most.
Vrennan: Ran poorly on the all-weather in January and needs to improve a bit to take a hand here.
Swing West: Successful over hurdles during the winter. Won on the all-weather at Southwell in February but much more on his plate here.
Keen Dancer: Won gamely over hurdles at Newbury recently and, though apparently no great shakes on the Flat, may well be improving under Martin Pipe's handling. Far from out of it.
Bride's Pride: Won in the soft at Chepstow last July but in much lesser company.
Conclusion: As fiercely competitive as usual. Fitness, stamina and the ability to handle testing conditions will be required to win. KEEN DANCER appears to boast those attributes and battled on splendidly to win at Newbury last time out over hurdles. Valagalore and Sea Freedom are other interesting contenders, though both lack a recent run.Reuse content