Pretenders come and go but a credible threat to BIG BUCK'S' staying crown still hasn't materialised and Paul Nicholls' superstar should comfortably rack up consecutive victory number 17 in this Grade 1 contest. Smad Place has more than eight lengths to find with the favourite on Cheltenham running but may still be the one for forecast-backers as Restless Harry was beaten in a handicap at The Festival, while Across The Bay and the disappointing Crack Away Jack were pulled up. Tidal Bay has always been a tricky customer but retains plenty of ability and recent rain could see him plod into a place ahead of Irish raider Won In The Dark and Poungach, who may struggle to last home on this surface.
Across The Bay (IRE) 16-1 (10-9) Prominent to 3rd, soon towards rear, no danger after, tailed off when pulled up before 2 out, in a race won by Cape Tribulation (10-11) at Cheltenham 3m lstd hcp hdl (1) gd in Mar, 24 ran.
Big Buck's (FR) 5-6fav (11-10) Tracked leaders on inside, joined leader 9th, led before 2 out, hard driven between last 2, switched left approaching last, ridden and pressed when edged right flat, stayed on well, in command final 50 yards, won at Cheltenham 3m hdl G1 (1) gd in Mar beating Voler La Vedette (11-3) by 1 3/4l, 11 ran.
Crack Away Jack 13-2 (11-1) Held up towards rear, hampered 3rd, hit 8th, struggling 13th, pulled up before 2 out, in a race won by Salut Flo (10-10) at Cheltenham 2m 5f hcp chs G3 (1) gd in Mar, 22 ran.
Poungach (FR) 15-8 (11-4) Held up, not always fluent, closed after 4th, pushed along 3 out, driven to chase winner approaching last, stayed on, no impression on easy winner, 2nd of 4, 2l behind Oscar Whisky (11-12) at Cheltenham 2m 4f hdl (2) gs in Jan.
Restless Harry 16-1 (11-12) Prominent to 4th, mid-division, outpaced 9th, soon behind, no danger after, 11th of 24, 24l behind Cape Tribulation (10-11) at Cheltenham 3m lstd hcp hdl (1) gd in Mar.
Smad Place (FR) 20-1 (11-10) Held up towards rear in touch, headway to chase leaders on inside after 3 out, outpaced next, stayed on to go 3rd last, no chance with front pair, 3rd of 11, 9l behind Big Buck's (11-10) at Cheltenham 3m hdl G1 (1) gd in Mar.
Tidal Bay (IRE) 5-1 (11-0) Held up in 3rd until 5th, last 9th, mistake next, soon outpaced, tried to close before 4 out, no impression, weakened next, last of 5, 20l behind Long Run (11-10) at Newbury 3m chs Grd 2 (1) gs in Feb.
Won In The Dark (IRE) 4-1 (11-2) Tracked leader early, soon led, narrowly headed from 3 out, kept on same pace under pressure in 3rd from before last, 3rd of 5, 5l behind Oilily (11-5) at Cork 2m 4f hdl in Mar.