Tedd taken to trump Rock On Ruby
Hobbs' improving youngster can continue upward spiral at Ascot
Vautour's devastating Cheltenham Festival triumph last March was a freakish performance so it will be fascinating to see how he fares on his first outing since then at Ascot.
Willie Mullins's dual Festival winner wasn't much less impressive in the Supreme Novices' Hurdle a year earlier.
Save for a blip at Leopardstown last Christmas, he has never looked anything less than extraordinary during his two-year spell with the champion trainer, a point reinforced by a stratospheric final rating last term.
The manner in which Vautour dominated the JLT Novices' Chase field at last season's Cheltenham Festival was simply breathtaking.
At every remove, he seemed to be taking one stride for his rivals' two, as he bounded merrily along from the front, pinging fences with such alacrity that, had anything been able to put it up to him, his technique might have been deemed inefficient, so much air was he giving them.
What was most impressive was how, after Apache Stronghold had crept on to his coattails turning in, Ruby Walsh's mount stretched all of 15 lengths clear by the time he crossed the line. Only time will tell if he has the resilience and stamina to match his quality and make him a genuine Gold Cup contender. On all known form, though, today's assignment will be straightforward, bearing in mind that he is proven over the trip and that he slammed his chief rival Ptit Zig by nearly 20 lengths in March.
Likewise, Silviniaco Conti is impossible to oppose at short odds in the Betfair Chase at Haydock, as all the evidence points to him being the best horse in the race with conditions to suit. However, Brother Tedd, which beat Silviniaco Conti over hurdles at Kempton, is worth a look in Ascot's Coral Hurdle. Rock On Ruby sets the standard and ran well enough on his Wetherby return. He is back down to a more suitable in trip, but he is vulnerable to younger legs.
Philip Hobbs' Brother Tedd has it within his range to foil the former Champion Hurdler. After his convincing defeat of Silviniaco Conti, when he was receiving 13lbs, he is rated just five pounds inferior to Rock On Ruby on 155, yet he receives eight pounds here.
Brother Tedd had previously looked the part when signing off with a win in a competitive Sandown handicap off 135 in April. He is a deeply progressive individual, so he is value at odds of around 13/8 now to confirm that impression and complete his hat-trick under Richard Johnson.
At Haydock, Nicky Henderson's Top Notch could thwart Irving in the conditions hurdle. We still don't know how good last term's juveniles are, but the best of them are probably above average.
Crucially, unlike the majority of their ilk off the Flat, Top Notch has an abundance of room to improve. He has run just six times in his life, winning five hurdles before losing out to classy stablemate Peace And Co in the Triumph at Cheltenham. Irving has the benefit of a run, but he is a little shy of elite Grade One level, so Top Notch can score for Daryl Jacob at odds of 13/8.
In the preceding handicap, Gunner Fifteen appeals as an each-way option for Harry Fry and Noel Fehily. An unexposed sort, this winning point-to-pointer reappears off a light weight, a year after sluicing up at Uttoxeter.