Colin Tizzard’s nine-year-old scored here over 3m 3f in November when the track was riding deep, conceding 9lb and handing out a beating to The Conditional. West Approach was then a significant gamble in the Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury but his backers were left deflated when the gelding unseated his rider after a mistake at the seventh fence. The Conditional finished a superb runner-up to frank that earlier Cheltenham form. The handicapper has given West Approach another 4lb but the top weight can put his usual powerful late thrust to full use.
Rock The Kasbah can be given a first-rate chance if re-discovering last winter’s early-season dash. The gelding scored here over a furlong further last November, beating Royal Vacation and Conneygree. Philip Hobbs will have Rock The Kasbah fitter following a pipe-opener at Wincanton last month.
Only six go to post for the Mares’ Handicap Chase but it is a very open contest. Top weight DEFINATELYANOSCAR (1.55) has twice finished runner-up in slightly higher grade, at Kempton and Huntingdon, and seems ideally suited by this specialist 2m 4f trip. She isn’t devoid of pace judged on her solid sixth to Scarlet Dragon in a Listed handicap hurdle at Market Rasen.
With 16 declared for the Cross Country Handicap Chase there is plenty of scope for an each-way dabble. Yanworth has had an interesting career and Punchestown’s unique Risk of Thunder Chase (named in memory of the Sean Connery-owned multiple winner) grabbed his attention when scoring for Enda Bolger last month. Gallic raider EASYSLAND (3.05) is unexposed in Britain but has won four on the trot in France. He wears first-time cheek-pieces plus a tongue-tie and is clearly pretty useful.
ASK BEN (3.40) makes plenty of appeal in the 3m Handicap Hurdle following a stout performance in a quality event at Haydock. Ask Ben raced prominently and looked sure to give winner Stoney Mountain a race until fading on the long run-in. The six-year-old hasn’t had a lot of racing and is open to improvement.