Politologue has a good record first time up and handles a soft surface, so appeals most from a small but select field in a trappy renewal of the 2m Grade 2 Shloer Chase on day 3 of Cheltenham’s November Meeting this Sunday (14:25).
Trained by Paul Nicholls, the eight-year-old made the mighty Altior pull out all the stops here in the Queen Mother Champion Chase back in March.
Last season was a fact-finding mission for connections of Politologue. The John Hales owned grey gelding was aimed at the King George VI Chase at Kempton over Christmas, but failed to get the trip.
Politologue still won on reappearance and his prep run for that in the Grade 2 1965 Chase at Ascot when outstaying Charbel by half-a-length.
He has a terrific record at this level – scoring on four of his six starts. Also on Politologue’s CV are the Haldon Gold Cup at Exeter, Tingle Creek at Sandown and Desert Orchid Chase at Kempton.
As he also tasted success at the highest level going left-handed in the 2018 Melling Chase at Aintree and won on his first start in each of the last three seasons, Politologue commands respect.
Following wind surgery over the summer, this top rated Shloer Chase entrant has plenty in his favour.
Race terms don’t make this too difficult for Politologue, who is 13/8 with Bethard to go one better than the Cheltenham Festival here.
Reasons to oppose Shloer Chase rivals
Defi Du Seuil progressed last term and scored two Grade 1 victories as a novice chaser. However, the Philip Hobbs trained six-year-old has failed to fire on his reappearance in each of the last two seasons.
He ran on this card over course and distance in the Arkle Trial 12 months ago. It was a chase bow for Defi Du Seuil, but he wasn’t fluent at times and weakened out of contention to finish a 25-length last of five to Lalor.
The JP McManus owned son of Voix Du Nord clearly needed the run as he left it well behind when beating subsequent RSA Chase hero Topofthegame in a hot minor event at Exeter.
That was a step up in trip for Defi Du Seuil and he’s done really well over intermediate trips.
Like many past Triumph Hurdle winners before him, there is the distinct impression he is better over further as he gets older.
Top level successes in the Scilly Isles at Sandown and here at the Cheltenham Festival saw him lower the colours of Lostintranslation.
As the runner-up went on to relish stepping up to 3m for Grade 1 glory at Aintree, again the form has a strong look to it.
When Defi Du Seuil dropped down in distance at the Punchestown Festival, however, he was outpaced by Chacun Pour Soi.
He is zero from two in 2m chases so, despite odds of 6/4 with SportNation, Defi Du Seuil has to be taken on here.
Nicky Richards veteran Simply Ned came second in the Shloer Chase 12 months ago and, although the popular veteran retains ability, he is obviously vulnerable. Saint Calvados lacks consistency, meanwhile, so is opposed on that basis.
Al Dancer taken to confirm course form in Arkle Trial
The other 2m event over fences on Shloer Chase day is the aforementioned Grade 2 Arkle Trial (13:50).
Al Dancer is 3lb worse off with Getaway Trump from their previous course and distance battle at The Showcase meeting, but may still confirm the form.
Trained by Nigel Twiston-Davies, Al Dancer won his first four hurdles starts last season in the manner of a hot prospect.
After landing a Cheltenham handicap off an opening mark of 129 here in December to complete his hat-trick, the six-year-old went for the Betfair Hurdle. That is one of the hottest 2m handicaps of the season.
Al Dancer justified favouritism and defied a 12lb rise in his official rating to score Grade 3 success at rearranged venue Ascot by 3 1/4 lengths from the useful Magic Dancer.
Although only 10th when pitched back into novice company for the Supreme at the Cheltenham Festival, he’s always had the makings of a chaser.
That view was confirmed here last month when Al Dancer only needed driving out to score by four lengths.
It was a taking chase debut and he had the re-opposing Getaway Trump beaten by about six lengths in third.
While Al Dancer is now penalised for that success, the way his rival weakened when held and lost second place close home is a concern.
He could come on for that reappearance run, though. Getaway Trump also has winning form on heavy ground, but probably wants further given his Irish point background.
Despite giving weight all-round, Al Dancer thus appeals most at 7/4 with Ladbrokes in a fascinating Arkle Trial that also contains Rouge Vif.
That Harry Whittington trained five-year-old got the better of Getaway Trump in a Grade 2 novice hurdle at Kelso last season, so is no mug.
Ecco can prove too Sharp for Cheltenham rivals
In the last of the Grade 2s on Shloer Chase day, the 2m Sharp Novices’ Hurdle (15:30), Ecco is fancied to land the hat-trick.
Also trained by Nicholls like Politologue and Getaway Trump, this four-year-old German import has come on for his juvenile experience.
Ecco was far from disgraced when sixth on debut for Ditcheat handler Nicholls in the Grade 2 Adonis at Kempton.
The winner, Fusil Raffles, went on to land the Champion Four Year Old race at the Punchestown Festival and also scored in the Elite Hurdle on reappearance.
That meant Ecco was sent off a 100/1 outsider for the Triumph here in March. He ran well above those odds, however, when again filling sixth place and just a 1 1/2 lengths behind stable companion Quel Destin.
After a breathing operation over the summer, this son of Maxios has won two minor events at Wincanton and Ascot comfortably by an average of seven lengths.
Despite those victories, Ecco doesn’t carry a penalty. Main market rival Pacify, who scored at Listed level around Kempton last time out, does have to give weight all-round.
That completed a five-timer for Jamie Snowden, but all of those victories have come on a sounder surface.
With Nicholls and jockey Harry Cobden both on 20 per cent strike rates in the last 14 days going into this Cheltenham weekend, Ecco is preferred at 5/2 with William Hill for Sharp success.