Hell's Bay and Tullamore Dew have disappointed this term, while Massini's Maguire and Be There In Five were both pulled up on their belated reappearances. Penny Max is an improving novice who is probably fairly treated and The Minack can't be ignored, despite top weight. He may have been a little fortunate to win over C&D in December, however, and is 9lb higher now. This may be too far for Chance Du Roy but Pearlysteps stays well and his second to According To Pete at Haydock four weeks ago was a cracking effort. Like Crescent Island, EXMOOR RANGER never seems to run two races alike and unseated his rider in this race 12 months ago. But he's a decent handicapper when he gets his act together, as he proved over C&D in October, and he gets a tentative vote today.
The Minack (IRE) 11-4fav (11-1) Chased leaders, driven to challenge after 3 out, led approaching last, ran on well, won at Ascot 3m listed hcp chs (1) sft in Dec beating Vino Griego (10-0) by 6l, 12 ran.
Hell's Bay (FR) 12-1 (10-5) Tracked leaders, hit 8th, chased winner when mistake 4 out, lost place next, weakened 2 out, 9th of 10, well behind The Giant Bolster (10-3) at Cheltenham 2m 5f hcp chs G3 (1) gs in Jan.
Massini's Maguire (IRE) 8-1 (11-3) Tracked leaders, lost place 8th, struggling 10th, behind when pulled up 3 out, in a race won by The Minack (11-1) at Ascot 3m listed hcp chs (1) sft in Dec, 12 ran.
Cappa Bleu (IRE) 25-1 (11-3) Mid-division, headway 13th, went 4th 5 out, chased clear leading pair next, no impression, stayed on same pace, 3rd of 20, 22l behind Le Beau Bai (10-1) at Chepstow 3m 5f Grade 3 hcp chs (4yo+) (1) hvy in Dec.
Crescent Island (IRE) 25-1 (11-10) Reluctant and reminders soon after start, dropped to rear before 1st, pulled up after next, in a race won by According To Pete (11-2) at Haydock 3m hcp chs G2 (1) hvy in Jan, 11 ran.
Chance Du Roy (FR) 9-1 (10-3) Mid-division, outpaced 12th, ridden and stayed on from last, never on terms, 5th of 10, 26l behind The Giant Bolster (10-3) at Cheltenham 2m 5f hcp chs G3 (1) gs in Jan.
Pearlysteps 6-1 (11-3) In touch on outside, joined winner 11th, 3rd and outpaced 4 out, soon ridden, stayed on to regain 2nd flat, no impression, 2nd of 11, 3 1/2l behind According To Pete (11-2) at Haydock 3m hcp chs G2 (1) hvy in Jan.
Exmoor Ranger (IRE) 10-1 (10-11) In rear, headway approaching 12th, closer order 15th, weakened 18th, stayed on again before last, went modest 5th close home, 5th of 10, 28l behind Hold On Julio (10-0) at Sandown 3m hcp chs (2) gs in Jan.
Penny Max (IRE) 13-8fav (11-5) Took keen hold early stages, tracked leader, led 3rd until next, chased leader until before 7th, went 2nd again 11th, led 13th, kept on well flat (no time taken), won at Exeter 3m nov chs (3) sft in Jan beating Mic's Delight (10-13) by 1l, 4 ran.
Tullamore Dew (IRE) 14-1 (10-11) Held up towards rear, headway to 5th 4 out, staying on same pace when mistake and unseated rider 2 out, in a race won by Tatenen (11-3) at Ascot 2m 5f hcp chs (2) gs in Jan, 14 ran.
Viking Blond (FR) 6-1fav (10-9) Tracked leaders, jumped slowly 4th, ridden and lost place 12th, behind 17th, pulled up after, in a race won by Le Beau Bai (10-1) at Chepstow 3m 5f Grade 3 hcp chs (4yo+) (1) hvy in Dec, 20 ran.
Be There In Five (IRE) 25-1 (10-5) In rear, slow 4th, not fluent 9th, ridden and struggling 13th, tailed off and pulled up before 16th, in a race won by Hold On Julio (10-0) at Sandown 3m hcp chs (2) gs in Jan, 10 ran.
Qhilimar (FR) 22-1 (10-4) Led, narrowly headed approaching 13th, led again next, joined 3 out, headed approaching last, no chance with winner from last, weakened to 3rd closing stages, 3rd of 10, 11l behind Hold On Julio (10-0) at Sandown 3m hcp chs (2) gs in Jan.