The six-year-old was third behind Saphir Du Rheu on his most recent outing, here at Cheltenham, and that form gives him something to find with Paul Nicholls’ charge and runner-up, Reve De Sivola.
However, that was the selection’s first run of the season, and he’s entitled to be much better for it. It was also just his fourth race for trainer David Pipe, having gained plenty of experience in France.
It’s encouraging there was so much support for him in the market in the days running up to the Cleeve Hurdle race, and he jumped noticeably well throughout. Ultimately, he was outgunned by race-fit and experienced rivals, but that run should have put him spot on for today, and his connections have reported him in great shape ahead of this assignment.
He has never tackled quick ground, but there’s no solid reason to believe he won’t act on it. He looks a potential improver and, at odds of 12-1, looks a tasty each-way option.
Saphir Du Rheu was returning from a spell over fences when winning at Cheltenham, and his trainer was adamant he could find further improvement.
He carries the same colours as Big Buck’s who had a stunning career over hurdles — most remarkably in winning this race four times — having failed to take to the larger obstacles.
Stable companion Zarkandar heads the market. He has winning form at the Festival, having won the 2011 Triumph Hurdle, but he had his chance in this race last year, and could only manage sixth place behind More Of That. He has been in good form since, and will be hard to keep out of the frame.
There is plenty of Irish interest, and Sandra Hughes’ Lieutenant Colonel is one of the more interesting raiders. He won Grade One contests on each of his last two starts, looking a progressive sort.
However, I have enough concerns about his stamina for the trip, particularly at this track. He moved into second place behind Faugheen when the field turned for home in last season’s Neptune Novices’ Hurdle here at the Festival, and yet finished sixth, beaten quite a long way.
Perhaps he’s a much stronger horse this year, and it would be a superb story were he to give Hughes a maiden Festival winner, but he may have to settle for a minor role.
Monksland was third behind Simonsig in the Neptune Novices’ Hurdle of 2012, but was two years off the track before returning to finish third behind Lieutenant Colonel at Leopardstown at Christmas.
In the circumstances, that was a terrific effort, and he also ran a super race next time, when touched off by Dedigout. Paul Carberry is likely to be very patient with him and he has a chance of sneaking into the frame.
Blue Fashion is another which has shown a high level of form but has had his issues. Nicky Henderson’s horse was runner-up to More Of That in a handicap hurdle back in November 2013, and wasn’t seen again until running up behind Champion Hurdler Faugheen at Ascot a year later. He certainly has scope for improvement.
Barry Geraghty prefers Whisper, but Blue Fashion has the scope to improve past his stable companion.
It’s a wide-open race, ripe for an upset, and that’s reflected in the market, which offers 9-2 the favourite.
There isn’t a standout performer, and in the circumstances it’s important to find value. At double-figure odds, Un Temps Pour Tout provides that.