Johns Spirit won a couple of big handicaps here in the autumn, beating Colour Squadron in the second of them. But his latest run in December suggests he's in the handicapper's grip now. Carrickboy was a shock winner of this last year and showed a glimmer of his old form when third to stablemate Bennys Mist at Wincanton last time. He's still 4lb higher but can't be ruled out and Venetia Williams also runs Newbury scorer Shangani under a penalty. King Edmund is better over this sort of trip nowadays while the lightly-raced Sraid Padraig could be interesting and Giorgio Quercus' win at Kempton in November has worked out well, though he never figured in this last season when the veteran Tartak finished third. Third Intention is proving difficult to place but Tap Night has ability, though McCoy has decided to keep faith with Colour Squadron. TATENEN would be a popular winner for weighing room veteran Andy Thornton and the 10-year-old is enjoying something of a revival. Richard Rowe's charge went close again at Sandown last month off his new mark and he's run well at the Festival in the past so gets the nod.
Champion Court (IRE) 9-1 (11-6) Raced keenly, made most, headed narrowly approaching 2 out, weakened last, 6th of 7, 23l behind The Giant Bolster (11-0) at Cheltenham 3m 1f chs Grd 2 (1) hvy in Jan.
Johns Spirit (IRE) 11-2 (11-9) Held up in rear, not fluent 10th, headway 13th, ridden and stayed on same pace approaching 2 out, unable to get on terms, 5th of 13, 15l behind Double Ross (10-8) at Cheltenham 2m 5f Grade 3 hcp chs (4yo+) (1) gd in Dec.
Colour Squadron (IRE) 9-2fav (11-7) Mid-division, not fluent 2nd, headway 13th, not clear run and switched right after 2 out, went 2nd when mistake last, unable to get on terms with winner and soon lost 2nd, one pace, 3rd of 13, 5l behind Double Ross (10-8) at Cheltenham 2m 5f Grade 3 hcp chs (4yo+) (1) gd in Dec.
Tap Night (USA) 9-2 (10-12) Held up in last pair, headway before 2 out, went 3rd before last, ridden and kept on flat, never reached front pair, 3rd of 10, 7l behind Wishfull Thinking (11-12) at Cheltenham 2m 5f hcp chs G3 (1) hvy in Jan.
Third Intention (IRE) 20-1 (11-7) In touch, jumped slowly 5th, outpaced approaching 2 out, went 3rd before last, stayed on same pace, 3rd of 6, 7l behind O'Faolains Boy (11-0) at Ascot 3m nov chs G2 (1) sft in Feb.
Ballynagour (IRE) 8-1 (10-6) Mid-division, chased leaders 4 out, outpaced next, soon weakened, behind when pulled up before 2 out, in a race won by Johns Spirit (10-2) at Cheltenham 2m 4f Grade 3 hcp chs (4yo+) (1) gd in Nov, 20 ran.
Tatenen (FR) 10-3 (11-11) Tracked leader, hit 12th, led after 4 out, headed last, held after, stayed on, 2nd of 5, 1l behind Aachen (10-8) at Sandown 2m 4f hcp chs 0-150 (2) hvy in Feb.
Bless The Wings (IRE) 16-1 (11-3) Always towards rear, tailed off and pulled up before 3 out, in a race won by Bally Legend (10-12) at Kempton 3m hcp chs G3 (1) sft in Feb, 13 ran.
Carrickboy (IRE) 16-1 (11-12) Held up and raced wide, jumped slowly 1st, headway on wide outside to chase leaders 10th, pushed along in 4th before 3 out, went modest 3rd just before last, no chance with leading duo, 3rd of 9, 11l behind Bennys Mist (11-5) at Wincanton 2m 5f hcp chs 0-140 (3) sft in Jan.
Bennys Mist (IRE) 8-1 (11-2) Led to 2 out, weakened and lost 2nd place after last, 3rd of 6, 12l behind Persian Snow (10-8) at Warwick 2m 4f hcp chs 0-150 (2) sft in Feb.
Sraid Padraig (IRE) 14-1 (10-13) Led and disputed, led from 3 out, ridden after next, strongly pressed run-in, stayed on well run-in, all out, won at Fairyhouse 2m 1f in Nov beating Cause Of Causes (11-0) by ns, 13 ran.
King Edmund 4-1 (11-12) Held up in touch in 4th, effort and pressing for close 2nd before 2 out, soon outpaced, 3rd and well held last, 3rd of 5, 13l behind Aachen (10-8) at Sandown 2m 4f hcp chs 0-150 (2) hvy in Feb.
Wetak (FR) 8-1 (10-9) Held up, headway 14th, weakening when fell 3 out, in a race won by Restless Harry (10-7) at Ascot 3m hcp chs Listed (1) sft in Feb, 7 ran.
Nadiya De La Vega (FR) 5-1 (11-6) Held up in last pair, no real impression when blundered 14th, no chance after, tailed off, 7th of 8, well behind Planet Of Sound (11-12) at Kempton 3m hcp chs 0-145 (2) sft in Jan.
Firth Of The Clyde 2-1fav (11-8) Held up towards rear, outpaced 5 out, ridden and headway after 2 out, kept on towards finish, 3rd of 7, 3/4l behind Suprise Vendor (10-0) at Kelso 2m 1f (3) gs in Feb.
Shangani (USA) 3-1fav (10-12) Tracked leaders, went 2nd 8th, led before 3 out (normal 4 out), narrowly headed last, stayed challenging, ridden and one length down when carried left at elbow on run in, not much room and squeezed through, soon led again, driven out, won at Newbury 2m 4f hcp chs G3 (1) hvy beating Rebel Rebellion (11-12) by 1 3/4l, 7 ran.
Mr Cracker (IRE) 25-1 (10-12) With winner until pecked badly 1st, soon lost place and in rear, pulled up 5 out, in a race won by Mr Moonshine (11-4) at Warwick 2m 4f hcp chs (2) hvy in Feb, 7 ran.
Giorgio Quercus (FR) 9-2 (11-7) Tracked leaders until lost place and last pair 7th, rallied to 3rd 11th, challenged 3 out, soon narrow lead, 2 lengths ahead when jumped slowly 2 out, soon pressed hard driven, narrowly headed last, rallied under pressure to regain lead final 100 yards, won at Kempton 2m 4f hcp chs 0-135 (3) gd in Nov beating Bally Legend (11-12) by 3/4l, 7 ran.
Act Of Kalanisi (IRE) 33-1 (11-0) Chased leaders, went 2nd approaching 2nd, led approaching 4th where jumped right, went badly right again 3 out and soon headed, weakened rapidly, tailed off, 18th of 20, well behind Splash of Ginge (10-3) at Newbury 2m hcp hdl Grade 3 (1) hvy in Feb.
Sew On Target (IRE) 11-4 (11-10) Tracked leaders, not fluent 1st, went 2nd 3rd, not fluent 6th, led 2 out, driven clear from last, won at Sandown 2m hcp chs 0-130 (3) hvy in Feb beating Speedy Bruere (10-13) by 6l, 6 ran.
Gallox Bridge 10-1 (11-12) Led to 4th, tracked leader, not fluent 8th, hit next, lost place 10th, tailed off when pulled up before 4 out, in a race won by Buywise (10-13) at Ludlow 2m 4f hcp chs 0-135 (3) hvy in Feb, 7 ran.
Tartak (FR) 10-1 (11-9) In touch, not fluent 11th, weakened next, pulled up 4 out, in a race won by Night Alliance (11-0) at Haydock 3m hcp chs 0-145 (2) sft in Dec, 12 ran.
Highway Code (USA) 5-1 (11-9) Mid-division, went 3rd before 5 out, led 4 out, clear from 2 out, won at Newbury 2m 2f cond hcp chs (4yo+) (3) gs in Nov beating Massena (10-2) by 2 1/2l, 8 ran.
Christopher Wren (USA) 33-1 (11-4) Mid-division, headway from 2f out, stayed on inside final furlong, never able to get on terms, 5th of 13, 3 1/2l behind Sgt Reckless (11-4) at Kempton 2m n h flat (3) std in Jan.