Just the four runners heading to post for this Grade 2 affair, but what a fantastic race we have in store for our Sunday afternoon's, with the return to action of multiple Grade 1 winner Jonbon.
14:55 Cheltenham: Schloer Chase (Cheltenham Chase) (Grade 2) (2 miles)
- Jockey: Nico De Boinville
- Trainer: Nicky Henderson
This race will obviously evolve all around Jonbon, who is most definitely the class act in the race, albeit amongst other very decent types in the line-up.
Jonbon has only ever been beaten on two occasions by two very, very good horses – namely, a certain Constitution Hill and El Fabiolo (whom he beat over hurdles at Aintree the season before last).
Nicky Henderson invariably gets things right with this horse, and an argument can be made that he is very underappreciated amongst the racing fans with all that he has done so far.
A four-time Grade 1 winner already at just seven years old, there is plenty more to come and given his relations, he can surely only get better and better with each run he has over fences.
He runs against older, more experienced chasers here again on Sunday, as was the case last year in his novice chasing season, apart from when landing the Grade 1 Celebration Chase at Sandown, with some nice Graded types well in behind him that day.
He is still learning on the job, and his runs on his final two starts last season were very impressive: a 43-length winner of the Grade 1 Maghull Novices Chase at Aintree (albeit with Calico falling at the last when not too far away) and then that Grade 1 Celebration Chase win against the older horses.
It will be interesting to see where they go with him this season, whether it is over two miles for the Champion Chase or slightly further for the Ryanair. Either way, he will be a real force no matter what race he aims for come the rest of the season.
- Jockey: Tom Cannon
- Trainer: Alan King
The highest rated horse in the race and another one in the field who is slightly underappreciated, Edwardstone is a multiple Grade 1 winner in his own right, as well as a Cheltenham Festival winner.
That Festival win came in his novice chasing season, where he went on an eyecatching unbeaten streak, winning five races in a row, which included two Grade 2's and two Grade 1 races.
The winning run started at Warwick, before going on to Sandown to land the Grade 1 Henry VIII Novices Chase in some style. A tidy win in a Grade 2 at Kempton came next, followed by the Grade 2 Kingmaker Novices Chase at Warwick, as well as the Arkle at the Cheltenham Festival in March of 2022.
As mentioned, those brilliant successes were in his novice chasing years, and although he didn't quite hit the heights last season, he did win a Grade 1 on his seasonal debut last December.
That was probably by far a career-best performance from the Alan King-trained star, as he lined up with a mark of 161 in the Grade 1 Tingle Creek, winning with absolute ease by 9 lengths.
He was held at the rear all the way around, and jumped really well throughout, before making a strong challenge three out, keeping on strongly up the Sandown Hill to fly clear in the closing stages.
That day there saw proven Grade 1 performers Greaneteen and Shishkin in behind that day, and pretty well beaten in the end.
Things didn't quite plan out as connections might have wanted it to, as he unseated in the Grade 2 Desert Orchid Chase at Kempton, and was then runner-up in the Albert Bartlett when well fancied and finally was well beaten in the Champion Chase.
Nothing came out as to why he ran so disappointingly in the Champion Chase, although the ground conditions were very testing, so that might contribute as a reason.
Edwardstone goes well fresh, as shown last season in the Tingle Creek, and he could quite easily bounce back to form here. However he has the small matter of Jonbon to peg back, so this could be quite a decent battle come Sunday.
- Jockey: Harry Skelton
- Trainer: Dan Skelton
Another runner in this field who goes very well fresh, the Skelton charge Nube Negra has won this race for the last two seasons on his seasonal re-appearance, both times going on to run well in some good races without converting to further wins.
In 2021 after winning the Shloer Chase he came a 12-length fourth in the Tingle Creek, before then having a 140-day break and coming third behind Greaneteen once again in the Celebration Chase for his last run of the season.
Then when winning this race last year he came second in the Desert Orchid next time, well beaten however by Editeur De Gite (the same race that saw Edwardstone fail to completel) before never travelling and pulling up in the Grade 1 Champion Chase at the Festival following another lengthy break from racing.
He does have very good fresh form previously as mentioned, and does bid for the hat-trick here, although with the class of Edwardstone and Jonbon in the contest this year, it is a much better renewal of the race than previous years have thrown up.
That run in the Champion Chase does leave a few question marks, and he is sparingly raced now which leaves a few question marks on whether he is the force of old (he beat Altior back in 2020 at Kempton).
However, his record in this race speaks for itself, and if Dan Skelton has him fully tuned up for this, he could really serve it up to the market leaders.
- Jockey: Niall Houlihan
- Trainer: Gary Moore
A nice background to the story of Editeur De Gite that connections have decided to keep Niall Houlihan on him no matter where he runs after that Grade 1 feat at Cheltenham in the Clarence House Chase (was moved to Cheltenham from Ascot last season).
Niall gets on so well with this horse, who is the real flag-bearer for the young rider's career so far with the pair winning a Grade 2 and Grade 1 together, as well as running in championship races at the Cheltenham Festival and Sandown for the Celebration Chase.
After winning that Grade 1 at Cheltenham, his form did slightly dip, as although he was running in some very good Grade 1 contests, he was well beaten in both of them.
That said, the slight advantage he has heading into the Shloer Chase on Sunday is race fitness, as he has already had a run-out in the Grade 2 Haldon Gold Cup at Exeter, albeit finishing a disappointing fifth of six, so it was clear to see he needed the run to be fully tuned for the rest of the season.
He has dropped down to a rating of 162, which isn't too far off the rest of these, and his Cheltenham form from last season suggests he goes well here, and if he can get an easy lead all the way around, he will be very hard to peg back up the hill providing he still retains the ability from last season.
Although the market doesn't reflect this, any of the four runners could easily land this contest, and it could ultimately come down to who is race fit and who might not be.
However it would be silly to go against the real class angle in the race Jonbon. Already a four time Grade 1 winner in his relatively short career, he has only been beaten by two horses in his whole life, those being Constitution Hill in the Supreme and El Fabiolo in the Arkle.
There might be a few question marks on whether Cheltenham really suits him, as he can't seem to get into a real jumping rhythm around there, but Nicky Henderson would not be running him if he thought otherwise.
If he does get in his rhythm jumping wise around there, he could win this how he likes before going onto Grade 1 company this season. Nicky H has a little gleam in his eye when talking about this horse, and he might not have finished improving as yet, as his siblings did improve nicely with age and racing.
Race preview provided by @ Jake Russell