Another fine spectacle over the National fences that's far from easy to solve, with marginal preference for MALJIMAR over Meanus Dandy, Gullible Gordon, Hello Bud and Irish Raptor. Nick Williams' horse was in the process of running a huge race before falling at Bechers on the second circuit and although it's impossible to predict where he'd have finished our belief is he may have been in the first five or six. Of course there's the concern that connections will have left something to work on with the spring feature in mind but he's gone well fresh in the past and looks set to run a huge race. Hello Bud was a beaten favourite in this last year but is a bold front-runner who could go well along with Irish Raptor, who won the 2009 renewal of the Topham Chase and is well-treated on that form. Gullible Gordon received a fine ride to win at Wincanton and appeals as the type to take to this along with his stablemate Meanus Dandy, while ignoring Irish raiders Notre Pere and Whatuthink may be unwise.
Notre Pere (FR) 4-1 (11-10) Led early, tracked leader in 2nd after 1st, mistake 8th, dropped to 3rd before next, pushed along approaching 4 out, not fluent next and soon no impression on leading pair, kept on well under pressure run-in to go 2nd closing stages, 2nd of 5, 4l behind Glencove Marina (11-7) at Thurles 2m 6f lst chs (1) sft.
Gullible Gordon (IRE) 6-1 (11-8) Made all, hit 12th, clear 17th, pecked badly 3 out, stayed on strongly, ridden out, unchallenged, won at Wincanton 3m 3f hcp chs 0-140 (2) gd in Oct beating Ballyvesey (10-8) by 7l, 7 ran.
Maljimar (IRE) 33-1 (10-8) Mid-division, headway 6th, intouch when fell 22nd (bechers), in a race won by Don't Push It (11-5) at Aintree 4m 4f hcp chs G3 (1) gd in Apr, 40 ran.
Whatuthink (IRE) 9-4fav (11-7) Tracked leaders, went moderate 3rd and ridden after 3 out, moderate 2nd entering straight, no impression on winner from 2 out, 2nd of 8, 10l behind Leanne (11-7) at Clonmel 2m 4f chs in Oct.
One Cool Cookie (IRE) 20-1 (11-8) Prominent, weakened from 3 out, 5th of 6, 39l behind Tranquil Sea (11-10) at Clonmel 2m 4f chs Grd 2 (1) hvy.
Meanus Dandy (IRE) 5-1 (9-11) Chased leader 3rd until 17th, stayed in 3rd, went 2nd again before 3 out, soon challenging, upsides 2 out, led before last, came clear flat, stayed on strongly, won at Wincanton 3m 1f listed hcp chs (1) gd beating Buena Vista (10-5) by 3 1/2l, 14 ran.
Merigo (FR) 13-2 (11-4) Tracked leaders, lost place 4 out, weakened next, 8th of 11, 49l behind Captain Americo (11-4) at Kelso 3m 3f hcp hdl 0-125 (3) gd.
I'moncloudnine (IRE) 6-1 (10-9) Towards rear, headway 14th, 5th from 17th, hit 3 out, stayed on under pressure from next, 4th of 14, 23l behind Meanus Dandy (9-11) at Wincanton 3m 1f listed hcp chs (1) gd.
Hello Bud (IRE) 9-1 (9-11) Chased leader until pushed along before 14th, handy until weakened 19th, tailed off when pulled up before 3 out, in a race won by Church Island (10-5) at Sandown 3m 5f hcp chs G3 (1) gd in Apr, 19 ran.
Irish Raptor (IRE) 14-1 (10-6) Chased leaders, until blundered and weakened 17th, plugged on from 4 out, 6th of 14, 33l behind Meanus Dandy (9-11) at Wincanton 3m 1f listed hcp chs (1) gd.
Newman Des Plages (FR) 28-1 (11-12) Led, headed after 10th, chased leaders, went 2nd 2 out, regained lead and hit last, stayed on well run-in, won at Carlisle 3m hcp chs 0-115 (4) gs in Oct beating Overquest (10-4) by 5l, 10 ran.
Midnight Gold 8-1 (10-10) Tracked leaders, blundered and lost place 13th, weakened 3 out, pulled up before last, in a race won by Alderburn (11-3) at Aintree 3m 1f hcp chs 0-145 (2) gs in Oct, 13 ran.
Minster Shadow 16-1 (10-9) Tracked leaders, chased from 6 out, hit 2 out, hit last, kept on flat, 2nd of 15, 2l behind Etxalar (10-10) at Carlisle 3m 2f hcp chs 0-135 (3) sft in Oct.
Royal Rosa (FR) 7-1 (10-8) Mid-division, ridden and outpaced 15th, headway under pressure 3 out, stayed on under pressure flat, not reached leaders, 4th of 13, 2 3/4l behind Alderburn (11-3) at Aintree 3m 1f hcp chs 0-145 (2) gs in Oct.
Pak Jack (FR) 5-1 (10-9) Made most to before 3 out, soon lost place, weakened next, 6th of 9, well behind Jay J (10-9) at Kempton 2m 5f nh nov hdl (4) gd.
Ballyvesey (IRE) 7-2 (11-3) Mistake 1st, tracked leading pair, ridden approaching 3 out, soon lost place, kept on same pace under pressure from next, no impression, 5th of 6, 9l behind Ashfield's Dream (11-3) at Market Rasen 2m 6f nov chs 0-120 (3) sft.
Au Courant (IRE) 66-1 (11-12) Mid-division, outpaced 4 out, never on terms, 7th of 18, 36l behind Quattrocento (11-0) at Cheltenham 3m am hcp chs 0-125 (3) gd in Oct.