He has very little to fear from several of those that finished behind him that day, but this is a much more representative test with the likes of Faugheen, Supasundae and Top Notch among the opposition and odds of 13/8 make no appeal.
Go back a couple of years and Faugheen was recording timefigures of 175 and 169, but his current well- being is hard to assess. Supasundae has yet to record a timefigure better than 149 for all of his good efforts in top company (which include a second place finish in this race last year) and his three runs this year suggest he might have lost a bit of speed.
The most interesting runner by far is Top Notch. He’s high class over fences, just a few pounds short of the best, and was only six lengths behind a match-fit Paisley Park on his reappearance in the Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot when needing the run as is usually the case first time out. His recent record might suggest he is considered best at right-handed tracks, but he has been placed twice (in the Triumph and JLT), as well as finishing fifth in the Champion Hurdle in three visits to the Festival and can boast a CV full of timefigures greater than 150, capped by a career-best 158 last time out. He stays well and has the speed to capitalise if the race turns into a test of speed as it did last year. He ought to be one of the favourites, not 14/1.
Defi Du Seuil and Lostintranslation head the market for the JLT but their case is not clear cut from a timefigure perspective. The duo fought out the finish of the Scilly Isles at Sandown (when Vinndication was a close third) as well as the Dipper here in January, and with career-best timefigures of 144 and 143, respectively, there is likely to be little there between them again. However, Mengli Khan had Lostintranslation several places behind in last year’s Supreme and has already recorded a timefigure of 149 over fences, just short of the race-leading 150 achieved by Voix du Reve who would have finished ahead of him had he stood up in the Arkle at Leopardstown last time. Kildisart (142) is another you can throw into the mix from a timefigure point of view and this contest looks too open to hold a strong view on.
In our Timefigure Lucky 15 Festival preview, we made the case for A Toi Phil in the Pertemps and though his stable-companion Sire Du Berlais heads the market, we feel the 14-1 still available is fair value. Sire Du Berlais acquitted himself well at the Festival last year when finishing fourth in the Martin Pipe and caught the eye last time out, but the return to a big-field scenario for the first time in eighteen months will reverberate well with A Toi Phil who was an eyecatcher himself in his qualifying run for this last time under a 7lb claimer. Stable jockey Jack Kennedy takes back over now and, capable of running to a timefigure well above his current BHA mark and unexposed at three miles, he should go well.
If Footpad is in the same form as he was last year, when he recorded a 179 timefigure in winning the Arkle and looked the equal of Altior, then he would be a short-priced favourite for the Ryanair instead of the 4-1 widely available. His trainer intends running him without hind shoes in a bid to prevent the overreaches that have dulled his two performances this year, and he could yet go very well with the trip unlikely to be a problem.
His stable-companion Un De Sceaux looks to have been overlooked in the market, however. He has finished first or second in four previous visits to the Festival, winning an Arkle as well as this race in 2017, and he looked as good as ever when running Altior to four lengths in the Tingle Creek at Sandown on his reappearance. He has churned out timefigures of 163 or more like clockwork over the past couple of years and the recent rain is very much in his favour.
There doesn’t appear to be an obvious timefigure angle in the Brown Advisory Plate, while the Dawn Run lacks a mare with an outstanding overall time performance for all short-priced favourite Epatante looks a cut above these on sectionals from the second-last and last. She won a Grade 1 bumper in the mud at Saint-Cloud on her final start in France and could easily be a couple of notches above these.
The Kim Muir looks as tight on timefigures as it does on form ratings. Measureofmydreams has been well touted for this after an eye-catching run last time and a best timefigure of 142 confirms his BHA mark (137) is potentially lenient. 2017 Martin Pipe seventh No Comment is another with a similar profile, while Any Second Now and Touch Kick are others potentially well treated on time but who come into this in top form. All in all, it’s a race we will pass over.
Back Top Notch in the Stayers Hurdle at 14/1
Back A Toi Phil in the Pertemps Network Final at 14/1
Back Un De Sceaux in the Ryanair Chase at 11/2