PUNJABI can post back-to-back successes in this race with Solwhit and Celestial Halo the dangers. Nicky Henderson's inmate was a shock victor last term and while this season has been disappointing for his followers, in truth, this race is probably an easier renewal than the Champion Hurdle he won. Connections have spoken of him as a spring horse and if that is the case, he should come on for his victory in an egg-and-spoon race at Kempton. Solwhit meanwhile is one of the most improved horses in training. He should stay the two miles and were he not the subject of a bad scope last week, he would have probably shaded favouritism. Good ground suits. Celestial Halo has a couple of questions to answer though this probable front runner has blinkers on for the first time. As one of the glaring omissions in his CV, Paul Nicholls will be desperate to win a Champion Hurdle. Binocular was favourite for this race last year though has been distinctly unimpressive this season. Muscular problems have been blamed though he has reportedly been in good form on the gallops over the last few weeks. Zaynar has been rejected by Barry Geraghty and that could tell its own tale. He can be forgiven for being turned over at odds of 1/14 on bottomless going at Kelso. Noel Meade has been distinctly downbeat about Go Native and Cheltenham's watering policies. Connections stand on the verge of a £1 million bonus and having taken two key trials, he has every right to the mantle of market leadership. Khyber Kim has been rejuvenated by Nigel Twiston-Davies and much of the credit can go to Paddy Brennan. The pair have a bit to find though have had much better form en route to the big race than most. Medermit won Haydock's Champion Hurdle trial. The yard took this prize previously with Katchit and invariably seem to be underestimated at this grade. Starluck travels well and if staying has to be given a chance. His unorthodox prep saw him win on the Polytrack at Kempton. If Celestial Halo sets the pace at speed, his chance could be compromised. Jumbo Rio, Won In The Dark and Raise Your Heart are predictably trading at big odds and in fairness to the them, that reflects their chances based on anything they have shown at the races. A race where holes can be found in the form of plenty but Punjabi has been there and done that and his experience could count for plenty.
Binocular (FR) 1-7fav (11-8) Held up in 3rd, closed up 5th, went left 3 out, challenged on bit 2 out soon led, not extended, won at Sandown 2m listed hdl (1) sft in Feb beating Dee Ee Williams (11-2) by 1l, 3 ran.
Celestial Halo (IRE) 2-1 (11-10) Led, driven along and strongly pressed after 3 out, headed and dropped to 4th 2 out, kept on same pace under pressure, 4th of 7, 9l behind Solwhit (11-10) at Leopardstown 2m hdl G1 hvy in Jan.
Go Native (IRE) 5-2 (11-7) Held up in rear, headway 3 out, led last, soon ridden, kept on well, won at Kempton 2m hdl G1 (1) gs in Dec beating Starluck (11-7) by shd, 7 ran.
Jumbo Rio (IRE) 2-1 (11-11) Chased leader in 3rd, improved to 2nd entering straight, ridden to challenge approaching last, joined leader run-in, no extra close home, 2nd of 6, 1/2l behind Luska Lad (11-10) at Gowran Park 2m hdl G2 sft in Feb.
Khyber Kim 12-1 (11-4) Confidently ridden, held up, smooth headway after 2 out, quickened to challenge on outside last, pushed along to lead flat, cleverly, won at Cheltenham 2m 1f hdl G2 (1) sft in Dec beating Celestial Halo (11-8) by 2 1/4l, 7 ran.
Medermit (FR) 11-4 (11-8) Held up in 3rd, closed 5th, challenged 3 out, led when not fluent last, ran on well to draw clear final 150 yards, won at Haydock 2m hdl G2 (1) sft in Jan beating Punjabi (11-12) by 4l, 4 ran.
Punjabi 1-6fav (11-10) Held up in touch, tracked leaders 4th, led approaching 2 out, soon clear, easily, won at Kempton 2m hdl (2) sft in Feb beating Border Castle (11-2) by 12l, 6 ran.
Raise Your Heart (IRE) 10-1 (11-12) Mid-division, raced keenly, headway approaching 3rd, weakened after 3 out, last of 15, 48l behind Khyber Kim (11-9) at Cheltenham 2m hcp hdl Grade 3 (1) sft in Nov.
Solwhit (FR) 5-6fav (11-10) Tracked leaders in 3rd, 4th halfway, improved into 2nd and ridden to challenge 2 out, led before last, stayed on well, comfortably, won at Leopardstown 2m hdl G1 hvy in Jan beating Donnas Palm (11-10) by 4 1/2l, 7 ran.
Starluck (IRE) 10-3 (11-7) Held up towards rear, jumped left 4th, headway 2 out, stayed on strongly after last, not reach winner, 2nd of 7, shd behind Go Native (11-7) at Kempton 2m hdl G1 (1) gs in Dec.
Won In The Dark (IRE) 9-10fav (11-5) Tracked leaders in 5th, improved into 3rd 3 out, smooth headway after 2 out, led before last, quickened clear, not extended, very easily, won at Leopardstown 2m 2f hdl sft in Feb beating Head Of The Posse (11-10) by 3l, 7 ran.
Zaynar (FR) Evens4fav (11-10) Tracked leaders in 3rd, went 2nd approaching 4th, challenged when hit 2 out, hard ridden flat, not quicken, 2nd of 4, 1l behind Quwetwo (11-2) at Kelso 2m 2f hdl (2) sft in Feb.