The exciting Denman makes his eagerly awaited chase debut here, and he can take the first step towards Cheltenham by beating Penzance, with Kawagino best of the remainder. Denman lost his unbeaten record in the Royal & SunAlliance Hurdle, but remains one of the horses to follow this term, and connections fully expect him to take this en-route to better things. He was actually schooled over fences at the end of last season, and in recent work under Ruby Walsh, he has done everything expected of him. Being a heavy-topped individual, the cut in the ground will be perfect as he bids to come back with a bang. The plan is to step him up in trip eventually, with an outing at Newbury's Hennessy meeting pencilled in on the way to his ultimate target of the Royal & SunAlliance Chase for which he is favourite with most firms. The 2005 Triumph Hurdle winner Penzance struggled to make an impact last term, and although he is capable, the fact that he was beaten at Kempton leaves him with something to find, likewise Kawagino. Quite simply, if Denman stays upright, he should collect.
Joizel (FR) 18-1 (9-7) In touch until weakened approaching 7th, 9th of 10, well behind Zuleta (10-0) at N Abbot 2m 6f hcp hdl 0-105 (4) gd in Jun.
Penzance 5-6fav (11-8) Chased winner, mistake 6th, ridden and hung left from 3 out, beaten next, 2nd of 4, 14l behind Lennon (11-4) at Aintree 2m lst nov chs (1) gd.
Critical Stage (IRE) 5-1 (10-4) Mid-division, took closer order 4th, ridden before 3 out, no impression when not fluent 2 out, 3rd of 9, 11l behind Estate (10-1) at Bangor 2m 1f hcp hdl 0-145 (2) gs in Aug.
Denman (IRE) 11-10fav (11-7) Chased leaders, stumbled approaching 7th, hit 3 out, led 2 out, ridden, headed last, not quicken flat, 2nd of 17, 2 1/2l behind Nicanor (11-7) at Cheltenham 2m 5f nov hdl Grd 1 (1) gd in Mar.
Kawagino (IRE) 11-4 (11-5) In touch, led 2 out, headed last, no extra, 2nd of 4, 1 1/2l behind Self Defense (11-8) at Kempton 2m hdl (2) gd.
Keepthedreamalive 10-3 (10-11) Led, ridden approaching 4 out, headed and not quicken towards finish, 2nd of 6, 1l behind Fier Normand (11-0) at Ludlow 2m 4f beg chs (4) gf.