Almost a third of this field bring winning form into the race and several others appear well handicapped on past efforts. The pick of the first group may well be Charlie Swan's Prince Of Fire, who had a run on the Polytrack last month to blow away a few cobwebs. He beat Distant Memories at Down Royal last summer. Shotavodka is chasing a four-timer after beating Changing The Guard at Newbury but the runner-up is 5lb better off and Richard Newland also has a chance with the lightly-weighted SMALIB MONTERG. This will be the latter's first run over hurdles since finishing behind Local Hero in a Listed handicap at Market Rasen last September but he ran a race full of promise in a Wolverhampton all-weather maiden last month and looks to have been laid out for this. Paintball is thrown in on his best form but has been woefully out of sorts this term and, like Local Hero, Zarzal, Distant Memories and Makbullet, is returning from a break. The four-year-old Cockney Sparrow gets all the allowances but is inexperienced while the handicapper may have got to Kian's Delight and Jumps Road and Cry Of Freedom will probably find at least one too good again.
Local Hero (GER) 11-1 (10-5) Tracked leaders, not fluent 3 out, outpaced before next, weakened approaching last, 4th of 7, 19l behind Zarkandar (11-10) at Wincanton 2m Ltd hcp hdl (1) gs in Nov.
Shotavodka (IRE) 10-3 (11-12) Led until after 1st, tracked leader, led again after 5th, mistake 2 out, clear last, stayed on well, won at Newbury 2m hcp hdl 0-145 (2) hvy in Mar beating Changing The Guard (11-4) by 2 1/4l, 9 ran.
Changing The Guard 22-1 (11-4) Held up in rear, not fluent 3rd, headway 3 out, went 2nd last, stayed on, not able to trouble winner, 2nd of 9, 2 1/4l behind Shotavodka (11-12) at Newbury 2m hcp hdl 0-145 (2) hvy in Mar.
Prince Of Fire (GER) 7-1 (11-12) Tracked leaders, keen hold, tended to race wide, 2nd before 3 out, challenged and led from next, stayed on well run-in, comfortably, won at Down Royal 2m hdl gs in Aug beating Distant Memories (11-12) by 5l, 9 ran.
Ranjaan (FR) 12-1 (10-12) Mid-division, struggling 3 out, never on terms, 14th of 28, 28l behind Ted Veale (10-6) at Cheltenham 2m 1f hcp hdl G3 (1) gs in Mar.
Distant Memories (IRE) 5-1 (11-12) Led, strongly pressed from before 3 out, headed and dropped to 3rd 2 out, weakened before last, 5th of 8, 20l behind Burn And Turn (11-5) at Gowran Park 2m 4f hdl gd in Oct.
Meganisi (IRE) 14-1 (10-10) Pressed leader, ridden after 3 out, led before last where not fluent, held on well, won at Newbury 2m hcp hdl 0-140 (3) gs in Mar beating Cry Of Freedom (10-13) by 1l, 13 ran.
First In The Queue (IRE) 80-1 (10-0) Behind, no chance when hampered 3 out, tailed off when pulled up before last, in a race won by My Tent Or Yours (11-2) at Newbury 2m hcp hdl Grade 3 (1) sft in Feb, 21 ran.
Kian's Delight 33-1 (10-1) Prominent, lost place 3 out, soon behind, tailed off, 23rd of 28, well behind Ted Veale (10-6) at Cheltenham 2m 1f hcp hdl G3 (1) gs in Mar.
Lyvius 50-1 (11-3) Held up in rear of mid-division, headway on outside 3 out, weakened on long run and pulled up before 2 out, in a race won by First Avenue (10-5) at Sandown 2m lst hcp hdl (0-150) (1) hvy in Mar, 19 ran.
Le Bacardy (FR) 20-1 (10-10) Mid-division, weakened on long run nto 2 out, tailed off, 7th of 19, 46l behind First Avenue (10-5) at Sandown 2m lst hcp hdl (0-150) (1) hvy in Mar.
Paintball (IRE) 15-2 (11-9) Tracked leader, ridden by-passing 6th, weakened by-passing next, tailed off, last of 7, well behind Quaddick Lake (10-8) at Taunton 2m 3f hcp hdl 0-135 (3) sft in Nov.
Zarzal (IRE) Evensfav (11-0) Tracked leaders, went 2nd after 6th, led 3 out, not fluent next, eased towards finish, won at Ludlow 2m mdn hdl (5) sft in Nov beating Calaf (11-0) by 8l, 11 ran.
All The Aces (IRE) 11-1 (11-5) Held up in mid-division, bad mistake 4th, nearly fell and unseated rider, in a race won by Meganisi (10-10) at Newbury 2m hcp hdl 0-140 (3) gs in Mar, 13 ran.
Cry of Freedom (USA) 13-2 (10-13) Held up in rear, mistake 4th, not fluent next, headway after 3 out, went 2nd inside final 150 yards, stayed on, unable to catch winner, 2nd of 13, 1l behind Meganisi (10-10) at Newbury 2m hcp hdl 0-140 (3) gs in Mar.
Kudu Country (IRE) 16-1 (11-7) Chased leader, bumped 4th, led 5th, headed approaching 3 out, lost 2nd 2 out, outpaced approaching last, plugged on to 3rd half a furlong from home, 3rd of 8, 2 1/4l behind Red Inca (11-1) at Haydock 2m hcp hdl 0-140 (3) gs in Mar.
Jumps Road 9-1 (11-2) Mid-division, headway approaching 2 out, challenging when bumped last, led towards finish, won at Wincanton 2m hcp hdl 0-130 (3) gs in Mar beating Chesil Beach Boy (11-6) by nk, 8 ran.
Makbullet 5-6fav (11-12) Chased leaders, switched left after last, chased winner flat, kept on, 2nd of 14, 1/2l behind Keeneland (11-5) at Kelso 2m nh nov hdl (4) gd in May.
Smalib Monterg (FR) 7-1 (10-6) Held up mid-division, weakened after 2 out, 12th of 15, 10l behind Local Hero (11-2) at Market Rasen 2m 1f Listed hcp hdl (1) gd in Sep.
Special Catch (IRE) 25-1 (11-4) Held up towards rear, some headway and modest 5th when blundered 2 out, 5th of 16, 36l behind Close Touch (11-6) at Sandown 2m 4f NH Novice Handicap Hurdle (Grade 3) (4-7yo) (1) hvy in Mar.
Canadian Diamond (IRE) 6-1 (11-8) Held up, headway approaching 5th, ridden on outside to challenge before 3 out, led 2 out, hard pressed, stayed on under pressure, held on, won at Ludlow 2m hcp hdl 0-125 (3) gs in Mar beating Seventh Sky (11-6) by hd, 9 ran.
Cockney Sparrow 7-4fav (9-12) Mid-division in touch, headway before 3 out, driven to lead between last 2, soon clear, stayed on well, eased towards finish, won at Doncaster 2m 4yo nov stks (4) gd in Mar beating Flaming Arrow (10-12) by 2 1/4l, 11 ran.