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The Inside Track on the Grand Annual

The Grand Annual is normally a tricky puzzle to solve with a field of 24 runners attempting to jump round Cheltenham, going at July Cup pace.

The race is named in honour of Nicky Henderson’s old man and his Tanks For That bids to make it fourth time lucky in the race and granted his favoured good ground he looks primed to run a big race. Preference though is for a pair of novices in NED BUNTLINE and Raya Star.

Ned Buntline was smart in bumpers (second to Jezki on debut) and progressive in three novice hurdle runs. He has shaped really well in his three chase starts too, showing smart form on his debut behind Ballycasey and Mount Colah, before winning easily at Navan.

He was unsuited by the small field/slow pace scenario when failing to catch front runner Mallowney on his most recent start. He has been allotted a very fair looking 138 by the handicapper and this strong-travelling sort is taken to relish finally having some pace to run at in his first start in a big-field handicap.

It is also worth backing Alan King’s Raya Star, who has plenty of form in competitive handicap hurdles off this sort of mark.

He has shaped especially well in his four chase starts considering the yard were under a cloud earlier in the season. In his most recent race at Newbury in the Game Spirit he travelled sweetly, before being out-pointed late by Cheltenham hopefuls Module and Dodging Bullets.

The hustle and bustle of the Grand Annual will hold no fears to this seasoned handicapper and King has done well in this race in the past with similar types Oh Crick (won) and Kumbeshwar (placed).

Selection: Ned Buntline

Alternative: Raya Star