The strong early favourite is Venetia Williams' Gemirande, on the back of his wide-margin win at Southwell at the end of November, albeit in a lower-graded handicap on a tight, flat, left-handed track with good ground.
On that basis, Gemirande looks a bit short now that he is up ten pounds in a higher-graded Class 3 contest to be run on much more testing right-handed track with slower ground.
Those doubts create extra potential value elsewhere, bringing in Gary Moore's eight-year-old, Sopran Thor, who is very attractively treated if he can begin this season in the same way that he started last term on his chasing debut.
13:15 (Sandown) Sopran Thor
On the back of a 192-day absence, he annihilated a field of eleven 0-120 chasers, winning by no less than 19 lengths, despite carrying top mark of 120, which where he now begins this new campaign.
Following his chasing debut success, Sopran Thor found only Brief Ambition too good in a 0-127 handicap at Kempton (20.5 furlongs on good ground) a week later, but he beat the others by a long way.
Brief Ambition has been hugely progressive, winning five of his last last seven completed starts, including each of his first three outings over fences, and he is now rated 134 (higher than today's opposition), which is 17 pounds higher than when beating Sopran Thor, who in turn is now seven pounds lower.
Sopran Thor never really progressed as seemed likely after those first two runs of the season, which is why this appears to be a good time to catch him.
He has not raced over these fences before, but two of his top three hurdling performances came on his two visits to this venue, and they both came over 20 furlongs with some cut in the ground.
Gary Moore has recently brought out several of his runners to win on their reappearances, so there is a very good chance that Sopran Thor will be ready to go first time out, as he was last season.
He is now ten pounds below the mark he had following his second place behind Brief Ambition, so he is handicapped to strike and this looks a very winnable opportunity.
- Next best: Peejaybee
Of the others, Peejaybee makes a quick return to the track after falling at Haydock a week ago, and significantly, his best hurdling performance came at this very venue, when he won a Class 3 handicap over 20 furlongs on good-to-soft ground by no less than nine lengths.
The same conditions over fences should be ideal and his chasing mark is currently lower than his hurdling mark, so he looks very competitive, providing his recent fall hasn't dented his confidence