Royal Charm is probably having a confidence-booster back over hurdles but the luckless Shoreacres has to go on the short-list, though has gone up a further 4lb since finishing second to Deireadh Re at Wincanton. Smad Place was a classy juvenile last season and it would be no surprise if he finished ahead of stablemate Torphichen, despite the lack of a recent run, but the vote goes to A BRIDGE TOO FAR. He won over a similar trip at Haydock last year and probably needed the outing when just beaten on his comeback over 2m1f at Doncaster. Ciceron, successful when well backed at Sandown two weeks ago, is also worth a second look and Huntingdon winner Joseph Lister has a 10lb claimer on board, though is stepped up in grade today.
Royal Charm (FR) 4-7fav (11-7) Tracked leader, led 3rd, blundered next, headed approaching 5th, weakened from 4 out, last of 4, 27l behind Torphichen (11-7) at Exeter 2m 1f grad ch (2) hvy in Dec.
Smad Place (FR) 11-1 (11-0) Tracked leaders, driven and outpaced before 2 out, soon ridden, kept on same pace, no impression approaching last, 10th of 23, 11l behind Zarkandar (11-0) at Cheltenham 2m 1f 4yo hdl Grade 1 (1) gd in Mar.
Torphichen 12-1 (10-6) Held up in mid-division, headway to chase leaders, 4 out, chased winner 3 out, led narrowly 2 out, ridden before last, headed flat, stayed on same pace, 2nd of 11, 2 1/2l behind Celestial Halo (11-12) at Newbury 2m hcp hdl (2) sft in Dec.
Shoreacres (IRE) 7-2 (10-0) Close up, led 7th, ridden between last 2, headed post, 2nd of 7, shd behind Deireadh Re (9-7) at Wincanton 2m 6f hcp hdl (2) sft in Dec.
Pateese (FR) 9-1 (11-3) Tracked leaders, challenged 5th, 5th and weakening when blundered last, tailed off, 8th of 13, well behind Safran De Cotte (9-10) at Haydock 2m 4f hcp hdl (2) hvy in Dec.
Ciceron (IRE) 6-1 (10-12) Patiently ridden, held up towards rear on inside, steady headway when hit 5th, travelling well before 2 out, went 2nd approaching last, ridden to lead flat, kept on strongly, won at Sandown 2m hcp hdl 0-145 (2) sft beating Havingotascoobydo (11-1) by 1 1/4l, 15 ran.
Orzare (IRE) 33-1 (9-7) Held up in rear, not fluent 2nd, headway approaching 3 out, never near leaders, 9th of 21, 21l behind Far Away So Close (9-10) at Aintree 2m cond hcp hdl (2) gd in Apr.
A Bridge Too Far (IRE) 2-1fav (11-12) Tracked leaders, went 2nd after 3 out, ridden to challenge between last 2, kept on and every chance flat, held towards finish, 2nd of 7, nk behind Shadows Lengthen (11-6) at Doncaster 2m hcp hdl 0-130 (3) gs in Dec.
Joseph Lister Evensfav (10-10) Tracked leaders, not fluent 2nd, ridden 3 out, soon back travelling better and led 2 out, ridden and stayed on well flat, won at Huntingdon 2m 4f nh nov hdl (4) gs beating Rowlestone Lad (11-6) by 4 1/2l, 15 ran.
Tara Rose 3-1 (11-3) Not fluent and rider having tack problems briefly 1st, led 2nd until 6th, outpaced after 8th, stayed on same pace from 3 out, pressed for modest 3rd last, 4th of 10, 17l behind Lady Kathleen (10-10) at Ludlow 2m 5f mares NH nov hdl (4) gs in Dec.
Rowan Tiger 11-2 (11-12) Led, mistake 3 out, headed soon after, no impression from next, lost 3rd towards finish, 4th of 12, 17l behind Grumeti (10-6) at Taunton 2m 1f nov hdl (4) gs in Dec.