RIVAL d’Estruval, the eight-year-old, trained in Northumberland by Pauline Robson for owner Raymond Anderson Green, has won two of his four starts over fences so far and finished runner-up in the others. Back In Focus, the likely representative from the Willie Mullins yard, has solid credentials as he has looked an out-and-out stayer in winning all three of his chase starts, including a Grade 1 last time. Boston Bob has won both his chases including a nose success from Texas Jack in the Grade One Dr PJ Moriarty Novices’ Chase, is 4-1 second favourite for the three-mile test next Wednesday. It will be his second Festival having finished second to Brindisi Breeze in the 2012 Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle Willie Mullins’ Vesper Bell was beaten three lengths over hurdles at the Punchestown Festival by stablemate Marasonnien, who is switched from this because he is considered good enough for the RSA Chase. Vesper Bell is a tough stayer, third in the Punchestown Grand National Trial but may need the forecast rain to come in quantity.
Godsmejudge, representing Alan King, is a good jumper who travels and stays well in his races, so it’s easy to see him running a big race.
Goulanes got up to beat the useful Super Duty on his debut over fences at Wetherby recently and looks a useful recruit.
Buddy Bolero has several festival entries and is very difficult to assess after an effortless victory at Leicester off a mark of 129.
Merry King has run two very solid races in defeat on his last two starts behind the useful Cannington Brook and Rolling Aces, only just failing last time. He has shown a very good attitude and bags of stamina which coupled with his sure footed jumping should see him go very close in this grueling test.