This used to be a lucrative race for the Pipe family as David's father Martin trained the winner on eight occasions and the current master of Nicholashayne saddled Great Endeavour to success in 2011 though this year's entry, Ballynagour, would probably prefer softer ground. Johns Spirit was only third behind Battle Group at Aintree in April but is 13lb better off here. He beat Astracad and Kumbeshwar here on his reappearance in a race in which Easter Meteor and Vino Griego both failed to finish but was behind Rajdhani Express at last year's Festival. Nicky Henderson's charge may need this, however, while stablemate Nadiya De La Vega isn't easy to catch right. CHAMPION COURT is a real Cheltenham specialist and is fancied to add to his three course wins as he's only been raised a couple of pounds since beating a useful field over track and trip in April. Conquisto beat Astracad, Wishfull Thinking and Carrickboy at Aintree three weeks ago but his jumping is a concern over these stiff fences.
Finian's Rainbow (IRE) 3-1fav (11-6) Led until 2nd chased leading pair, went 2nd 3rd, led and hit 3 out, ridden and joined last, headed soon after, stayed on same pace flat, 2nd of 10, 1 3/4l behind Sire De Grugy (11-2) at Sandown 2m chs G2 (1) gd in Apr.
Wishfull Thinking 7-1 (11-10) Held up in rear, took keen hold, hampered 2nd, jumped right and mistake 4th, mistake 7th, switched right and progress before 12th, bumped 4 out, awkward and weakened 2 out, 6th of 11, 25l behind Conquisto (11-0) at Aintree 2m 4f ltd hcp chs Grd 2 (1) gd in Oct.
Champion Court (IRE) 15-8fav (10-7) Prominent, led 3 out, driven after 2 out, headed last, rallied to challenge final 200 yards, stayed on to lead again towards finish, won at Cheltenham 2m 5f hcp chs G2 (1) gs in Apr beating Menorah (11-10) by 3/4l, 7 ran.
Rajdhani Express 3-1 (11-7) Tracked leaders in 3rd, with leader 9th, led out, headed narrowly before last, soon left in lead and clear, driven out, won at Ayr 2m 4f nov chs G2 (1) gd in Apr beating Tap Night (11-0) by 15l, 6 ran.
Conquisto 17-2 (11-0) Tracked leaders, switched right after 2 out, led last, driven out, won at Aintree 2m 4f ltd hcp chs Grd 2 (1) gd in Oct beating Astracad (10-5) by 1 1/4l, 11 ran.
Hidden Cyclone (IRE) 2-1 (11-6) Tracked leader in 2nd, headway to dispute 5 out and led before next, asserted approaching 2 out and clear advantage when slow and awkward jump last, kept on under pressure run-in, won at Listowel 2m 4f chs 0-145 sft in Sep beating Forpadydeplasterer (11-2) by 2l, 7 ran.
Vino Griego (FR) 16-1 (11-11) Held up, blundered and unseated rider 9th, in a race won by Johns Spirit (10-3) at Cheltenham 2m 4f hcp chs (2) gd in Oct, 16 ran.
Battle Group 13-2 (11-9) Always handy, went 2nd after 2 out, driven flat, led towards finish, won at Haydock 3m hcp hdl (2) gd in May beating Jetson (11-1) by 3/4l, 20 ran.
Woolcombe Folly (IRE) 22-1 (11-7) Tracked leaders, ridden before 2 out, disputing close 2nd when blundered last, not recover, no extra close home, 6th of 16, 6l behind Johns Spirit (10-3) at Cheltenham 2m 4f hcp chs (2) gd in Oct.
Tap Night (USA) 11-8fav (11-2) Tracked leaders, not fluent 4 out, ridden before next, went 2nd flat, no impression on winner, 2nd of 5, 8l behind Cloudy Too (11-6) at Carlisle 2m 4f Listed chs (1) hvy.
Kumbeshwar 25-1 (10-4) Held up behind in touch, outpaced 7th, plugged on from 3 out, went 4th flat, just held for 3rd near finish, no chance with leaders, 4th of 6, 7l behind Somersby (10-7) at Exeter 2m 1f hcp chs Grade 2 (1) gs.
Carrickboy (IRE) 20-1 (10-8) Tracked leaders, not fluent 10th, outpaced 3 out, weakened before next, 9th of 11, 32l behind Conquisto (11-0) at Aintree 2m 4f ltd hcp chs Grd 2 (1) gd in Oct.
Ballynagour (IRE) 7-2fav (10-12) In touch, went 2nd 4 out, lost place after next, weakened last, 8th of 22, 33l behind Carrickboy (10-5) at Cheltenham 2m 5f hcp chs G3 (1) gs in Mar.
Astracad (FR) 4-1 (10-5) Led, hit 2 out, driven and headed last, held flat, stayed on, 2nd of 11, 1 1/4l behind Conquisto (11-0) at Aintree 2m 4f ltd hcp chs Grd 2 (1) gd in Oct.
Easter Meteor 8-1 (11-9) Close up, mistake 1st, led 3rd until next, chased leaders, weakened from 2 out, 8th of 12, 21l behind Ultimate (11-2) at Wetherby 2m 4f Listed Handicap Chase (0-155) (4yo+) (1) gs.
Nadiya De La Vega (FR) 9-4fav (10-4) Chased leaders, close up from and 6th disputed next, ridden in 2nd entering straight, under pressure in 3rd 2 out, no extra before last, 5th of 14, 16l behind Klepht (10-1) at Punchestown 2m 4f hcp chs sft in Apr.
Johns Spirit (IRE) 5-1 (10-3) Held up in rear, hampered 9th, headway going well when not fluent 3 out, led last, stayed on well, won at Cheltenham 2m 4f hcp chs (2) gd in Oct beating Rob Conti (10-1) by 3 1/2l, 16 ran.
Colour Squadron (IRE) 9-2fav (11-11) Took keen hold, mid-division, headway when hit 8th, tracking leaders when started to hang left after 3 out, never able to challenge, continued to hang badly left, one pace flat, 5th of 20, 14l behind Rajdhani Express (11-7) at Cheltenham 2m 4f (1) sft in Mar.
Gift Of Dgab (IRE) 9-2fav (10-12) Soon led, strongly pressed and joined 2 out, headed before last where bumped and almost forced out through gap in railing, no extra run-in, 8th of 14, 5l behind Courtncatcher (10-12) at Naas 2m 4f in Oct.
Attaglance 11-4 (11-2) Tracked winner until 8th, chased winner from 4 out, challenged 2 out, every chance last, kept on and held towards finish, 2nd of 5, 1 3/4l behind Double Ross (11-2) at Perth 2m 4f nov chs (3) gs in Sep.