Olympian won well at Plumpton at the beginning of the month and has to be respected following that improved performance but the faster ground today and the 7lb penalty for the Plumpton success makes this tougher for the eight-year-old and it may be worth siding with the reappearing OPTIMUS MAXIMUS, who gets the vote over Song of Songs. James Fanshawe's gelding fell two out when still with every chance over fences at the festival last time and he has been given a chance by the handicapper back over timber today. David Pipe's Ashkazar has been dropped a few pounds in the weights but has given little sign for encouragement of late, while Tiger O'Toole has a lot more to do than when winning at Taunton last month. A 9lb rise for his win at Ludlow last time makes this tougher for Just Rob but he still rates one of the main threats to the selection, Optimus Maximus. Nicky Henderson's gelding has only had two starts over hurdles and has not been seen since finding just Amore Mio too good at Sandown over a year ago but the trainer is very capable of getting one ready after an absence and he looks well treated for his debut in a handicap.
Ashkazar (FR) 9-2fav (11-6) Towards rear, headway 3 out, ridden and every chance after next, no extra approaching last, 7th of 24, 14l behind Pause And Clause (11-10) at Cheltenham 2m 4f hcp (2) sft in Mar.
Song of Songs 10-1 (10-7) Mid-division on inside, hit 13th, driven to chase leaders approaching 3 out, 8th and no impression when fell 2 out, in a race won by Great Endeavour (10-1) at Cheltenham 2m 5f hcp chs G3 (1) gs in Mar, 24 ran.
Balzaccio (FR) 33-1 (11-0) Towards rear, some headway into mid-division after 3 out, weakened from next, 16th of 24, 35l behind Pause And Clause (11-10) at Cheltenham 2m 4f hcp (2) sft in Mar.
Optimus Maximus (IRE) 4-7fav (11-3) Tracked winner throughout, challenged 2 out, not fluent last, no extra, drifted right flat, 2nd of 6, 2 1/4l behind Amore Mio (10-9) at Sandown 2m 4yo nov hdl (3) gs in Jan '09.
Stradbrook (IRE) 33-1 (10-0) Mid-division, outpaced before 2 out, soon weakened, pulled up before last, in a race won by Thousand Stars (10-5) at Cheltenham 2m 1f hcp hdl G3 (1) gd in Mar, 28 ran.
Bothy 10-1 (11-2) Mid-division, not fluent 4th, headway on inside next, beaten after 2 out, one pace, 7th of 24, 16l behind Sanctuaire (11-2) at Cheltenham 2m Juvenile Novice Handicap Hurdle (Grade 3) (4yo) (1) gd in Mar.
Callisto Moon 40-1 (10-4) In touch, chased leader 3rd to before 2 out, soon weakened, 12th of 23, 36l behind Qaspal (10-3) at Sandown 2m lst hcp hdl (0-150) (1) gs in Mar.
Olympian (FR) 11-4fav (11-2) Raced on inner, took keen hold, held up, headway to 3rd after 6th, led before 2 out, soon clear, easily, won at Plumpton 2m hcp hdl 0-125 (3) hvy beating Raquel White (11-7) by 7l, 7 ran.
Just Rob 9-4fav (11-3) In touch, took closer order 4 out, led 3 out, clear after next, won at Ludlow 2m hcp hdl 0-125 (3) sft beating Elk Trail (11-0) by 6l, 7 ran.
Yetholm (USA) 7-1 (11-12) Held up in touch, headway on outer after 4th, hit 3 out, soon weakened and eased, 10th of 12, well behind Blazing Buck (10-4) at Ffos Las 2m 4f hcp hdl 0-125 (3) gd in Mar.
Dishdasha (IRE) 20-1 (10-0) Close up, weakened approaching 3 out, 16th of 17, well behind Valain (10-11) at Ffos Las 2m hcp hdl (2) gd in Aug.
Divers (FR) 14-1 (10-5) Held up in rear, headway on outside 4th, not fluent 7th, every chance 3 out, mistake 2 out, soon weakened, 16th of 18, well behind Sir Harry Ormesher (11-5) at Doncaster 2m 3f hcp hdl (2) gs in Feb.
Tiger O'Toole (IRE) 9-2 (11-11) Held up in rear, good headway after 3 out, led flat, ran on readily, won at Taunton 2m 1f hcp hdl 0-110 (4) gf in Mar beating Saltagioo (11-4) by 2l, 11 ran.
Overrule (USA) 4-1 (11-12) Held up in rear, hampered 5th, pushed along after 3 out, never dangerous, 8th of 13, 22l behind Dani's Girl (11-4) at Huntingdon 2m hcp hdl 0-115 (4) gf in Oct.
Forget It 8-1 (10-11) Close up, ridden and struggling before 3 out, tailed off when pulled up before last, in a race won by Salden Licht (11-0) at Newbury 2m mdn hdl (4) sft in Dec, 18 ran.