Tomorrow sees the 10th running of the Shloer Chase, and the Grade 2 two-mile chase has quickly become one of the most eagerly anticipated races in the calendar. It has been won by some of the best two-milers, starting with the David Pipe-trained Well Chief in 2009 and including the brilliant Sprinter Sacre in its role of honour.
Nicky Henderson's much-loved star took the Shloer Chase by 14 lengths in 2015, confirming he was back to his sensational best, and went on to score a second victory in the G1 Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase at The Festival presented by Magners the following spring.
Last year Fox Norton, twice a G1 winner, won his second consecutive Shloer Chase for trainer Colin Tizzard.
Both Henderson and Tizzard are represented in tomorrow's renewal. Henderson runs Brain Power (Aidan Coleman), second in the 2018 Racing Post Arkle Novices' Chase in March, but with two falls and one unseating to his five-race chasing record. However, the Kalanisi seven-year-old had a wind operation in July and will be interesting to watch on his seasonal debut.
The Tizzard stable has Sizing Granite, who runs in the colours of Ann and Alan Potts Ltd, the late owners of Fox Norton, in the race. Third in the G1 Melling Chase at Aintree in April, the Milan 10-year-old - ridden by champion jockey Richard Johnson for the first time - will have to improve to give Tizzard a third win in the Shloer Chase.
Current favourite, at odds of around 5/4, is the Alan King-trained Sceau Royal (Daryl Jacob). The six-year-old, owned by Simon Munir and Isaac Souede, won four of his five novice chases last season, but his campaign came to a halt after a "tiny tweak to a suspensory ligament". This is his first outing since January 27. King was victorious in this race in 2014 with Uxizandre.
Paul Nicholls is yet to win a Shloer Chase, but the 10-time champion Jump trainer has a chance with Le Prezien who, as he is owned by J P McManus, will be ridden by Barry Geraghty. Le Prezien took the Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Handicap Chase at The Festival in March, and was second in the Welsh Champion Hurdle at Ffos Las on his seasonal comeback last month.
Simply Ned, runner-up to Fox Norton in 2016 and trained by Nicky Richards and ridden by Brian Hughes, won a Grade One over two miles and a furlong at Leopardstown in December, 2017. However, he might prefer softer ground than he will get this weekend.
The field is completed by Forest Bihan, trained by Brian Ellison and ridden by Danny Cook. The seven-year-old beat Simply Ned in a handicap at Kelso on good ground in October 2017, but his only subsequent victory came in a "jumpers' bumper" at Newcastle in March. He is another horse having his first run since a wind operation in the summer.