Another cracking contest on that conveyor belt of top handicaps over this sort of trip during the Cheltenham season and this one can be taken can be taken by TATENEN, while Psychomodo, Fit To Drive and Chapoturgeon are among the dangers. The selection may not be the Paul Nicholls-trained first string, but nonetheless he has a definite chance in this. The run of Seven Is My Number in the previous race on the card will be a pointer to his chance, as he was around nine lengths adrift behind that rival at Sandown last time, when he may not have stayed 3m 1f up that hill. The drop back to 2m 5f here looks a positive, he acts with cut in the ground, and he is still on a decent mark, so we will chance him. Stablemate Chapoturgeon would have finished closer to fellow Ditcheat inmate Poquelin in the Boylesports Gold Cup here last month had it not been for a bad blunder at the last. He is sure to remain competitive from the same mark of 153, but it won't be easy to give weight away all around in a race as tough as this, and with his jumping having cost him in three of his last four starts we will take him on. Something Wells is 11lbs higher than when landing the Festival Plate over course and distance last March, and it will take something special for him to win today, while old favourite Mister McGoldrick has produced some special performances over the years, including when scoring over the Old Course in that same contest a year earlier at 66/1. He is now back to 2lbs below that, his most recent win, and this soft ground-loving teenager may still have frame claims at a price. Brendan Powell has placed Fit To Drive to complete a hat-trick either side of her summer break, and the mare gets in here with a featherweight to carry. She has never won on ground this soft, though she has made the frame on it, so she would have to have claims. Powell's other runner Psychomodo also comes into this in good shape after a 2m 3f Ascot win on good ground last time. A 9lb rise will make this plenty tough enough, but conditions suit and he is entitled to be thereabouts. Philip Hobbs has had a dream week and he saddles Private Be, who acts with cut and is well handicapped on his best form, though on the negative side he has had nine previous chances over this sort of distance here at Cheltenham and he has made the frame just twice and never won. Exmoor Ranger goes on the ground and has bags of stamina, in fact so much so that this might just be a bit on the quick side for him against some genuine two-and-a-half-milers. Can't Buy Time is another racing over a trip that looks too short and on ground that appears to be softer than ideal, though A P McCoy may have other ideas from the plate and a market check is advised. The poor form of trainers Tim Vaughan and Nigel Twiston-Davies leaves us cold on both Stan and Razor Royale respectively, but I'm So Lucky has shown enough ability at times to believe that he can have a say. Hold Em has won on soft ground but appears better suited when it is sound underfoot, and Chepstow winner Magic Sky is now 8lbs worse off with Private Be, having beaten the Hobbs horse just under two lengths there on Monday, and like that runner he too has flopped here in the past. Lots to talk about, plenty to consider, and the champion trainer can begin the year with another big prize with Tatenen.
Chapoturgeon (FR) 13-2 (11-10) Held up towards rear, steady headway from 11th, chasing leaders before 2 out, challenging for 2nd and staying on when blundered and nearly unseated rider last, unable to recover, 4th of 17, 12l behind Poquelin (11-8) at Cheltenham 2m 5f hcp chs Grade 3 (4yo+) (1) sft in Dec.
Something Wells (FR) 20-1 (11-0) Held up in touch, fell 7th, in a race won by Deep Purple (11-10) at Huntingdon 2m 4f Grade 2 chs (4yo+) (1) gs in Dec, 7 ran.
Tatenen (FR) 6-4fav (11-11) Led, headed after 3 out, soon weakened, 3rd of 4, 9l behind Seven Is My Number (10-13) at Sandown 3m listed ch (1) sft in Dec.
Stan (NZ) 40-1 (11-5) Chased leaders, ridden, lost place after 11th, well in rear, no chance when blundered 3 out, 12th of 17, well behind Poquelin (11-8) at Cheltenham 2m 5f hcp chs Grade 3 (4yo+) (1) sft in Dec.
Psychomodo 11-1 (11-12) Disputed lead until definite advantage 6 out, ridden clear approaching 2 out, ran on flat, won at Ascot 2m 3f hcp chs 0-135 (3) gd in Nov beating Soulard (10-11) by 6l, 8 ran.
Razor Royale (IRE) 8-1 (10-11) Chased leaders, led after 7th, kept advantage until mistake, headed 2 out, chased winner after, held before last, kept on gamely to hold 2nd, 2nd of 17, 7l behind Poquelin (11-8) at Cheltenham 2m 5f hcp chs Grade 3 (4yo+) (1) sft in Dec.
Mister McGoldrick 17-2 (11-12) Soon led, pushed along and headed 5 out, soon weakened, 7th of 10, 25l behind Pagan Starprincess (11-6) at Wetherby 2m 4f hcp hdl 0-135 (3) hvy in Dec.
Exmoor Ranger (IRE) 4-1fav (11-5) Held up towards rear, headway into mid-division when hit 12th, stayed on after 4 out, chased leaders approaching 2 out, challenged after last, kept on to lead final 100 yards, won going away, won at Newbury 2m 6f hcp chs 0-135 (3) gs in Nov beating Ice Bucket (10-3) by 2 1/4l, 14 ran.
Regal Heights (IRE) 50-1 (11-10) Chased leaders, losing place when mistake 16th, behind when pulled up 18th, in a race won by Galant Nuit (10-0) at Cheltenham 3m 3f Grade 3 hcp chs (4yo+) (1) sft in Nov, 12 ran.
Can't Buy Time (IRE) 15-2 (11-1) In rear, blundered badly and rider lost irons briefly 2nd, ridden and struggling 5 out, never in contention, 10th of 16, 19l behind The Last Derby (10-3) at Ascot 3m listed hcp chs (1) gd in Oct.
Ashley Brook (IRE) 66-1 (10-13) With leaders, led 3rd, hit 8th, mistake next, blundered and headed 3 out, weakened soon after, 9th of 12, 40l behind The Package (10-0) at Cheltenham 3m 1f listed hcp chs (1) sft in Dec.
Il Duce (IRE) 40-1 (10-7) Chased leaders, led 4 out, ridden and headed after 3 out, weakened between last 2, 7th of 16, 28l behind Tranquil Sea (10-13) at Cheltenham 2m 4f Grade 3 hcp chs (4yo+) (1) sft in Nov.
I'm So Lucky 28-1 (10-4) Mid-division, moving place and behind when pulled up 11th, in a race won by Tranquil Sea (10-13) at Cheltenham 2m 4f Grade 3 hcp chs (4yo+) (1) sft in Nov, 16 ran.
Hold Em (IRE) 9-1 (10-5) Not always fluent, chased leaders, hit 10th, still well there under pressure approaching 3 out, weakened before next, 6th of 17, 26l behind Poquelin (11-8) at Cheltenham 2m 5f hcp chs Grade 3 (4yo+) (1) sft in Dec.
Magic Sky (FR) 10-1 (10-9) Took keen hold early, held up in touch, headway to chase leaders 10th, effort approaching 2 out, stayed on under pressure on long run from last, driven to lead towards finish, won at Chepstow 2m 3f hcp chs 0-145 (2) hvy in Dec beating Private Be (11-2) by 1 3/4l, 9 ran.
Private Be 7-1 (11-2) Chased leaders, went second 3 out, led last, hard ridden flat, headed towards finish, 2nd of 9, 1 3/4l behind Magic Sky (10-9) at Chepstow 2m 3f hcp chs 0-145 (2) hvy in Dec.
Fit To Drive 6-1 (11-4) Tracked leaders, led 8th, headed 11th, led again after 4 out, ridden after next, stayed on under pressure, won at Kempton 2m 4f hcp chs 0-135 (3) gs in Nov beating Le Burf (11-10) by nk, 6 ran.