DARLAN may have been a bit of unlucky loser when second in the Supreme Novices' Hurdle at Cheltenham. He's fancied to gain compensation here though Prospect Wells was noted staying on strongly in fifth in the same race and Vulcanite was well in contention approaching the last and could get closer if settling better here. Agent Archie, however, looks held. The selection's stable companion Captain Conan had Prospect Wells back in fourth when winning the Tolworth Hurdle in January and has every chance on that form. But he disappointed when sent to Ireland for a Grade 1 the following month and couldn't justify favouritism at Kelso on his latest start. Nicky Henderson also saddles impressive Sandown scorer Oscara Dara but, like other recent winners Right Step and Theatre Guide, he needs to improve significantly if he's to get involved here while Absolutlyfantastic appears to have gone off the boil.
Absolutlyfantastic 5-1 (11-8) Chased leaders in moderate 3rd, weakened to rear after 4 out, pulled up before 3 out, in a race won by Tango Banbou (11-2) at Gowran Park 2m nov hdl (4-6yo) in Mar, 7 ran.
Agent Archie (USA) 50-1 (11-7) Led, ridden and headed after 2 out, weakened last, 12th of 19, 17l behind Cinders And Ashes (11-7) at Cheltenham 2m nov hdl Grade 1 (1) gd in Mar.
Captain Conan (FR) 7-4fav (11-8) Took keen hold, tracked leader, effort travelling well to lead before 2 out, hard driven and joined flat, no extra and headed final 130 yards, 2nd of 6, 2l behind Tap Night (11-5) at Kelso 2m 2f nov hdl G2 (1) gd in Mar.
Darlan 7-1 (11-7) Mid-division, headway 3 out, ridden to chase leaders approaching last, stayed on under pressure to go 2nd near finish, not reached winner, 2nd of 19, 1 1/4l behind Cinders And Ashes (11-7) at Cheltenham 2m nov hdl Grade 1 (1) gd in Mar.
North Cape (USA) 12-1 (11-0) Led, ridden 2 out, headed flat, stayed on, no impression on winner final 75 yards, 2nd of 8, 2 1/2l behind Claret Cloak (11-6) at Newbury 2m nh nov hdl (4) gd in Mar.
Oscara Dara (IRE) 3-1 (11-1) Held up in last trio, smooth headway 5th, chased leaders after 3 out, led approaching 2 out, came clear between last, ridden right out from last, easily, won at Sandown 2m nov hdl (4) gs in Mar beating Crystal Swing (11-1) by 20l, 8 ran.
Prospect Wells (FR) 14-1 (11-7) Mid-division, headway 2 out, chased leaders in 5th before last, kept on under pressure flat, 5th of 19, 2 1/4l behind Cinders And Ashes (11-7) at Cheltenham 2m nov hdl Grade 1 (1) gd in Mar.
Right Step 8-1 (11-0) Keen towards rear, headway approaching 2 out, effort last, ridden to lead flat, won at Kempton 2m nh nov hdl (4) gd in Mar beating Tweedledrum (10-7) by 1 1/4l, 12 ran.
Seventh Sky (GER) 11-4 (11-2) Held up, headway 5th, ridden approaching 2 out, soon weakened, 6th of 12, 34l behind Theatre Guide (11-2) at Wincanton 2m nh nov hdl (4) sft in Feb.
Theatre Guide (IRE) 9-4 (11-2) Tracked leaders, challenged approaching 2 out, soon led, went right last, comfortably, won at Wincanton 2m nh nov hdl (4) sft in Feb beating Old Tricks (10-9) by 4 1/2l, 12 ran.
Toughness Danon (9-2) 2nd of 11 Zweigelt (8-9) at Dortmund(GER) 1m 4f 3yo stks in Dec (flat).
Vulcanite (IRE) 22-1 (11-7) In touch, headway 2 out, led briefly soon after, no extra approaching last, 10th of 19, 14l behind Cinders And Ashes (11-7) at Cheltenham 2m nov hdl Grade 1 (1) gd in Mar.