With Poquelin standing his ground, nine of this field are forced to race out of the handicap proper. Quantitativeeasing, Aerial and Divers have each-way claims among that group and Fine Parchment jumped well and travelled strongly on his reappearance at Aintree until lack of condition told. Poquelin's stablemate Mon Parrain has been the subject of sustained ante-post support this week as Ruby Walsh's mount won by 22 lengths at Sandown on his UK debut in March and looked likely to follow up in the Topham Chase at Aintree the following month until weakening on the long run for home. There's more to come from Paul Nicholls' five-year-old but this in another hugely competitive renewal and there'll be plenty of interest in Wishfull Thinking, who never stopped improving last season. He was second in a Grade 2 over 2m4f at The Festival at Cheltenham in March before winning at Aintree and Punchestown, though form lines suggest he has to progress again to confirm course running with Loosen My Load. Calgary Bay could run well at a big price and Great Endeavour was a leading fancy here 12 months ago but could only finish sixth and races off a 5lb higher mark this year. THE GIANT BOLSTER hails from an unfashionable yard and has come to grief in three of his last four runs over fences but he has plenty of ability and may well have given the classy Time For Rupert something to think about had he not crashed out here a year ago. All the better for a spin over hurdles last month, he's very attractively weighted if a summer's schooling has ironed out his jumping problems and David Bridgwater's six-year-old gets the vote.
Poquelin (FR) 3-1 (11-6) In touch and keen, pushed along before 4 out, soon weakened, 5th of 7, 40l behind Weird Al (11-6) at Wetherby 3m 1f chs Grd 2 (1) gd in Oct.
Wishfull Thinking 11-4fav (11-10) Prominent, led 3rd, ridden and challenged 2 out, kept on well from before last, won at Punchestown 2m 5f nov chs gd in May beating Blazing Tempo (10-3) by 4 1/2l, 17 ran.
Oiseau de Nuit (FR) 16-1 (11-3) Held up in rear, closed after 8th, 3rd 3 out, driven after 2 out, not fluent last, one pace flat, 3rd of 7, 3 1/2l behind Medermit (11-4) at Exeter 2m 1f ltd hcp chs Grd 2 (1) gd.
Loosen My Load (IRE) 1-2fav (11-8) Slow jump 1st, chased leader, struggling from before straight, soon no impression and kept on same pace, 2nd of 4, 6l behind West With The Wind (11-8) at Limerick 2m 1f chs Grd 3 (1) in Oct.
Mon Parrain (FR) 7-2fav (11-6) Held up mid-division, headway from 7th, went 2nd at 11th, led before 2 out, ridden and headed before elbow, kept on same pace, no chance with winner, 2nd of 30, 4l behind Always Waining (10-4) at Aintree 2m 5f lstd hcp chs (1) gd in Apr.
Great Endeavour (IRE) 4-1fav (11-6) Mid-division on outside, hit 11th, reminders soon after, headway 12th, weakened approaching last, 6th of 15, 24l behind Prince De Beauchene (10-5) at Aintree 3m 1f lstd hcp chs (1) gd in Apr.
Dave's Dream (IRE) 5-1fav (10-11) Mid-division on outside, reminders from 4th, lost place 10th, soon behind, tailed off, 12th of 16, well behind Poquelin (11-7) at Cheltenham 2m 5f Grade 3 hcp chs (4yo+) (1) gs in Dec.
Holmwood Legend 4-1 (10-1) Tracked leader, not fluent 9th (water), challenging when stumbled 4 out, led just after 3 out, headed next, hit last, stayed on bravely, just held, 2nd of 5, 1/2l behind Poquelin (11-10) at Cheltenham 2m 5f hcp chs G2 (1) gd in Apr.
The Giant Bolster 14-1 (11-4) Mid-division, headway 4 out, chased leaders next, never on terms, 4th of 18, 8l behind Arthurian Legend (10-6) at Chepstow 2m 4f hcp hdl Grade 3 (1) gd in Oct.
Finger Onthe Pulse (IRE) 9-4 (11-2) Made all, opened up race winning lead from before 2 out, kept on well under pressure run-in, reduced lead close home, won at Listowel 2m 4f chs 0-145 hvy in Sep beating For Bill (10-12) by 1 1/4l, 5 ran.
Calgary Bay (IRE) 33-1 (10-10) In touch, fell 4th, in a race won by Ballabriggs (11-0) at Aintree 4m 4f hcp chs G3 (1) gd in Apr, 40 ran.
Araldur (FR) 16-1 (11-12) Held up in mid-division mistake 3rd, closer order to 4th after 7th, went 2nd 4 out until ridden approaching 2 out, left modest 2nd and badly hampered 2 out, no chance with winner, 2nd of 11, 8l behind Fistral Beach (11-5) at Wetherby 2m 4f listed hcp chs (1) gd in Oct.
Noble Alan (GER) 7-1 (11-5) Held up towards rear, headway to chase leaders before 3 out, challeged and led 2 out when stumbled and unseated rider, in a race won by Benny Be Good (11-8) at Market Rasen 2m 6f listed hcp chs (1) gd in Sep, 16 ran.
Quantitativeeasing (IRE) 7-1 (10-9) Chased leaders, 12th halfway, closer from 5 out, 4th after 3 out, ridden and no extra from next, weakened, 10th of 25, 32l behind Organisedconfusion (9-13) at Fairyhouse 3m 5f Ext hcp ch gd in Apr.
Swincombe Rock 7-1 (11-7) Held up towards rear, headway on outside 12th, went 2nd 4 out, led next, strongly pressed last, headed early run in, rallied closing stages, always just held, 2nd of 13, 1/2l behind Ethiopia (9-7) at Chepstow 3m hcp chs 0-150 (2) gd in Oct.
Aerial (FR) 5-6fav (11-3) Chased winner, blundered 1st, upsides and challenging from 4 out, ridden no extra and held after 2 out, 2nd of 4, 6l behind Gee Dee Nen (11-4) at Ascot 2m 5f nov chs (3) gd in Apr.
Tullamore Dew (IRE) 28-1 (11-6) Behind, mistake 4 out, ran on approaching last, never nearer, 5th of 18, 10l behind Arthurian Legend (10-6) at Chepstow 2m 4f hcp hdl Grade 3 (1) gd in Oct.
Divers (FR) 8-1 (11-6) Held up in touch, weakening when mistake 4 out, pulled up before 2 out, in a race won by Mr Moonshine (10-8) at Carlisle 2m 4f int chs (2) gs in Oct, 6 ran.
Billie Magern 11-2 (10-11) Prominent, led 7th, not fluent 9th, clear 2 out, stayed on well, won at Cheltenham 2m 4f hcp chs 0-150 (2) gf in Oct beating Buck Mulligan (10-11) by 3 1/2l, 8 ran.
Fine Parchment (IRE) 6-1 (11-12) Mid-division, headway to track leading pair 5 out, went 2nd next, ridden to challenge between last 2, kept on and every chance until no extra final 50 yards, 2nd of 9, 2 1/2l behind Hector's Choice (11-9) at Aintree 2m 4f hcp chs 0-135 (3) gd in Oct.