Native River (Timeform rating: 165+)
Many Clouds Chase, Aintree, Saturday
Native River famously fended off Might Bite to land an attritional Cheltenham Gold Cup in 2018, bravely digging deep under pressure to outstay his rival, and the old foes will meet again at Aintee on Saturday. Native River has failed to win in three starts since that gallant Cheltenham Gold Cup success, and there's a chance such a demanding race has had an impact on his performances since. However, his three starts last season were all under conditions less testing than ideal, and he is certainly not one to write off when faced with a stern examination of stamina. Throughout his chasing career, which started in November 2015, Native River has impressed with his bold-jumping, straightforward nature and willingness under pressure. Such traits have delivered a Hennessy Gold Cup and a Welsh Grand National, in addition to the Gold Cup, and he's only a nine-year-old so there may be another chapter still to write.
Un de Sceaux (169)
Tingle Creek Chase, Sandown, Saturday
Un de Sceaux won the Tingle Creek in 2016 and only the outstanding Altior prevented him from regaining his crown last year. He clearly had a rare off-day on his next start when finishing fifth in the Ryanair Chase at the Cheltenham Festival as, remarkably, he had finished first or second on his 17 previous completed starts over fences. The 11-year-old wasted no time getting back to his best, however, and registered an authoritative victory in the Boylesport Champion Chase at Punchestown, outjumping stablemate Min to win by four lengths to claim the contest for the second year in succession. Un de Sceaux was something of a tearaway in his youth but he has displayed remarkable longevity and has retained his enthusiasm. His record over fences now includes 13 wins (including ten at Grade 1 level) and five seconds from 19 completed starts. A marvellous servant to connections.
John Durkan Memorial, Punchestown, Sunday
Min is only an eight-year-old but has achieved plenty during a sparkling career, and his record would read even better had Altior not been around the same time. He may have been no match for Altior on the occasions they have clashed, but he has still registered four Grade 1 victories, including one in this race last season, and there's no doubt he's a top-class chaser when on his game. He was certainly on his game in this race last year as he typically travelled strongly and quickened clear before the last to win a shade comfortably. He then followed up with a six-length victory in the Dublin Chase at Leopardstown, and bounced back from a subdued showing in the Champion Chase to post a brilliant 20-length success in the Melling Chase. He was unable to replicate the form of that career-best effort at Punchestown, when beaten by Un de Sceaux, but is an undoubted class act.