Walkon is bidding to follow in the hoofprints of Quantitiveeasing, who won this last year after finishing second in the Paddy Power. Alan King's grey has gone up in the weights since his run behind Al Ferof but the forecast rain would be very much in his favour and he's a serious contender. It's difficult to see Paddy Power third Nadiya De La Vega turning the form around today. Astracad is also interesting, even though he's done most of his racing over shorter trips. He has won over 2m5f and, though he wouldn't want the ground to turn heavy, will be all the better for his comeback run. Paul Nicholls runs Down Royal Grade 2 winner Cristal Bonus and promising novice Unioniste but the former has never sparkled around here while the latter is 6lb out of the handicap and just as interesting is Wishfull Thinking. A real Cheltenham specialist, he wasn't troubled to land the odds over 2m here last time though could get anchored by his big weight today. We're inclined to take a chance on NOTUS DE LA TOUR, who goes well fresh, wouldn't mind some rain and looks reasonably treated. He was trying to give Walkon 8lb when beaten under nine lengths at Exeter last season yet gets 4lb now.
Wishfull Thinking 8-11fav (11-0) Blundered and went right 1st, held up in 4th tracked leading pair 4th, went 2nd at 8th, led after 4 out, drew readily clear from 2 out, driven out flat, eased towards finish, won at Cheltenham 2m chs (2) sft in Nov beating Doeslessthanme (11-4) by 18l, 6 ran.
Cristal Bonus (FR) 2-1 (11-10) Always prominent, led 2 out, clear last, stayed on well, comfortably, won at Down Royal 2m 4f chs Grd 2 (1) gs in Nov beating Jacksonslady (10-8) by 9l, 6 ran.
Quantitativeeasing (IRE) 20-1 (11-4) Behind, ridden and struggling after 8th, blundered next, tailed off and pulled up soon after, in a race won by Al Ferof (11-8) at Cheltenham 2m 4f Grade 3 hcp chs (4yo+) (1) sft in Nov, 18 ran.
Walkon (FR) 7-1 (10-6) In touch, headway approaching 3 out, chased winner before next and every chance, held last, no extra run-in, stayed on for clear 2nd, 2nd of 18, 3l behind Al Ferof (11-8) at Cheltenham 2m 4f Grade 3 hcp chs (4yo+) (1) sft in Nov.
Tatenen (FR) 100-1 (10-13) Mid-division on inside when blundered and unseated rider 8th (canal turn), in a race won by Neptune Collonges (11-6) at Aintree 4m 4f Handicap Chase (Grade 3) (7yo+) (1) gd in Apr, 40 ran.
Tartak (FR) 12-1 (11-12) Prominent, not fluent 9th, ridden 3 out, no extra last, 6th of 20, 17l behind Nadiya De La Vega (11-2) at Cheltenham 2m 4f hcp chs 0-150 (2) gs in Oct.
Nadiya De La Vega (FR) 12-1 (10-8) Chased leaders, ridden and every chance 3 out, driven and one pace before 2 out, went 3rd before mistake last,, 3rd of 18, 15l behind Al Ferof (11-8) at Cheltenham 2m 4f Grade 3 hcp chs (4yo+) (1) sft in Nov.
Astracad (FR) 9-2fav (11-12) Chased leaders, mistake 6th, blundered 8th, driven in 4th after 3 out, one pace and no real impression when went left 2 out, 4th of 14, 8l behind Shooters Wood (10-5) at Cheltenham 2m hcp chs 0-145 (2) gs in Nov.
Notus De La Tour (FR) 8-1 (11-0) Held up, fell 3rd, in a race won by Salut Flo (10-10) at Cheltenham 2m 5f hcp chs G3 (1) gd in Mar, 22 ran.
Micheal Flips (IRE) 8-1 (11-10) Mid-division, effort to chase leaders on inside 4 out, soon ridden, kept on same pace from next, no impression, 6th of 15, 8l behind Ulck Du Lin (10-2) at Newbury 2m 1f hcp chs 0-145 (2) gs.
Renard (FR) 8-1 (11-6) Tracked leaders, led after 8th, headed 2 out, soon ridden, no impression with winner when lost narrow 2nd flat, kept on, 3rd of 15, 4l behind Ulck Du Lin (10-2) at Newbury 2m 1f hcp chs 0-145 (2) gs.
Golden Chieftain (IRE) 5-1 (11-4) Shared lead, headed after 5 out, weakened next, pulled up before 3 out, in a race won by The Package (11-1) at Wincanton 3m 1f listed hcp chs (1) gs in Nov, 12 ran.
Divers (FR) 22-1 (11-5) Held up in rear, mistake 3rd, hit 8th and ridden along, well behind 11th, tailed off, 17th of 20, well behind Nadiya De La Vega (11-2) at Cheltenham 2m 4f hcp chs 0-150 (2) gs in Oct.
De Boitron (FR) 20-1 (10-10) Tracked leaders, effort on outside after last (usual 3 out), soon chased winner, ridden and one pace when lost 2nd over 1f out, 3rd of 6, 16l behind Idarah (10-11) at Kelso 2m 1f hcp chs (2) sft in Nov.
Kingsmere 25-1 (10-0) Chased leaders, ridden and weakened approaching 3 out, behind and pulled up before next, in a race won by Al Ferof (11-8) at Cheltenham 2m 4f Grade 3 hcp chs (4yo+) (1) sft in Nov, 18 ran.
Hell's Bay (FR) 14-1 (11-9) Tracked leader, hampered 4th, tracked winner, hit 3 out, soon weakened, 2nd of 3, 33l behind Ghizao (11-9) at Kempton 2m 4f grad ch (2) gs in Nov.
Have You Seen Me (IRE) 5-1 (11-7) Led, ridden after 2 out, headed last, stayed on same pace flat, 2nd of 8, 1l behind Magical Legend (10-6) at Cheltenham 2m 5f nov ltd hcp chs 0-135 (3) gd in Apr '11.
Unioniste (FR) 5-1 (11-2) Led, joined 4 out, narrowly headed just before next, soon ridden, lost 2nd before last, outpaced in 3rd run-in, 3rd of 5, 9l behind Dynaste (11-2) at Cheltenham 2m 4f nov chs (2) gs in Nov.