The ground is surely the key here as Master Minded was well beaten on good ground last year when attempting a hat-trick in the race. His three victories this season have come on good to soft going and provided there is some juice in the ground he should be at home in the conditions. His short-head success over Somersby in the Victor Chandler at Ascot owed much to his idling in front after going well ahead on the far side of the track and allowing Henrietta Knight's charge to nearly snatch the spoils. BIG ZEB produced the run of his life to win this a year ago when he jumped superbly and loved the good ground. His latest defeat by Golden Silver should not be taken too literally and he should have no problems from Willie Mullins' charge but Sizing Europe is another matter. Arkle winners have an excellent record in this race and, though Henry De Bromhead's charge has been beaten four times since his brilliant success over Somersby a year ago including twice by Golden Silver, he's been primed for this and the going has come right for him. Woolcombe Folly, well beaten in the Arkle, has improved this season but is yet to convince at anywhere near this level.
Big Zeb (IRE) 4-6fav (11-12) Settled in 4th, improved into 2nd 4 out, led 3 out, strongly pressed from last, kept on under pressure, headed close home, 2nd of 5, 1/2l behind Golden Silver (11-12) at Punchestown 2m chs Grd 2 (1) sft in Jan.
Captain Cee Bee (IRE) 7-2 (11-12) Held up in rear, not fluent 3rd, ridden and no impression from 2 out, kept on same, last of 4, 9l behind Big Zeb (11-12) at Leopardstown 2m 1f chs G1 (1) hvy in Dec.
Cornas (NZ) 7-1 (11-10) Tracked leaders, mistake 2nd, outpaced 5 out, 5th and beaten when hit next, soon weakened, last of 7, 39l behind French Opera (11-5) at Newbury 2m 1f chs Grd 2 (1) gs in Feb.
French Opera 7-2 (11-5) Led to 5th, tracked leader, led again narrowly 5 out, ridden between last 2, stayed on well flat, won at Newbury 2m 1f chs Grd 2 (1) gs in Feb beating Tchico Polos (11-6) by 6l, 7 ran.
Golden Silver (FR) 2-13fav (11-12) Settled close up in 3rd, smooth headway to challenge 2 out, led early run-in and effortlessly stretched clear, very easily, won at Naas 2m chs Grd 2 (1) in Feb beating Made In Taipan (11-10) by 7l, 3 ran.
I'm So Lucky 33-1 (11-7) Led until 3rd, remained prominent, led again approaching 8th, headed after next, weakened before 2 out, 6th of 9, 37l behind Master Minded (11-7) at Ascot 2m 1f Grade 1 chs (1) gs in Jan.
Mad Max (IRE) 8-1 (11-7) Tracked leaders, led 3rd, headed approaching 8th, rallied next, under pressure 3 out, weakened next, 3rd of 9, 21l behind Master Minded (11-7) at Ascot 2m 1f Grade 1 chs (1) gs in Jan.
Master Minded (FR) 4-7fav (11-7) Tracked leaders, led approaching 9th, driven 2 out, weakening when strongly challenged closing stages, just held on, won at Ascot 2m 1f Grade 1 chs (1) gs in Jan beating Somersby (11-7) by shd, 9 ran.
Sizing Europe (IRE) 4-1 (11-12) Tracked leaders in 3rd, close 2nd after 5 out, slight mistake 4 out, driven along after 3 out, no impression after 2 out, 3rd and no extra approaching last, 3rd of 5, 8l behind Golden Silver (11-12) at Punchestown 2m chs Grd 2 (1) sft in Jan.
Somersby (IRE) 8-1 (11-7) Tracked leaders, ridden to challenge 2 out, stayed on strongly flat, just failed, 2nd of 9, shd behind Master Minded (11-7) at Ascot 2m 1f Grade 1 chs (1) gs in Jan.
Woolcombe Folly (IRE) 4-1fav (11-7) Held up in touch, headway to go 2nd after 3 out, challenged next, led before last, ridden and stayed on well flat, won at Cheltenham 2m hcp chs (2) gs in Dec beating Tanks For That (10-7) by 6l, 13 ran.