The betting suggests this will prove a two-horse race and we concur. Grands Crus has been a revelation this season, winning a couple of handicaps in a hack canter here and at Haydock before scorching to a 10-length success in a Grade 2 over C&D in January. David Pipe probably hasn't got to the bottom of him yet and his day will undoubtedly come but we're sticking with BIG BUCK'S. Paul Nicholls' eight-year-old has won his last 10 starts over timber, including this race in 2009 and 2010. He doesn't always impress but invariably finds what's required when push comes to shove and may just outbattle Grands Crus up the hill. On form, the others appear to have a bit to find but Zaynar and Celestial Halo were third and fourth behind Binocular in last year's Champion Hurdle and should be good enough to match strides with the principals for much of the trip and Mourad has won Grade 2 contest at Leopardstown and Gowran this season. Fiveforthree had some smart form a couple of years ago and made a winning return from a long lay-off at Punchestown last month but this looks a big ask.
Any Given Day (IRE) 2-1 (11-8) Held up in rear, headway after 4 out, in 4th and weakening when hit 3 out, 4th of 6, 35l behind Cross Kennon (11-8) at Haydock 3m hdl G2 (1) hvy in Feb.
Ashkazar (FR) 20-1 (11-12) Held up in rear, not much room after 3 out, headway soon after, still plenty to do when went 4th 2 out, closed under pressure approaching last, led 110 yards out, stayed on well, won at Cheltenham 3m hcp hdl (2) gs in Jan beating Junior (10-3) by 3 1/2l, 17 ran.
Berties Dream (IRE) 16-1 (11-10) Led, headed 3rd, disputed again before 4 out, ridden in 3rd after 4 out, no extra in 4th 3 out, kept on one pace, 6th of 9, 13l behind Voler La Vedette (11-3) at Navan 2m 5f hdl G2 (1) hvy in Feb.
Big Buck's (FR) 2-13fav (11-7) Tracked clear leader, closed up 7th, led narrowly after 4 out until before next, poised to challenge soon after, in lead and travelling strongly on bit as field came into view final 110 yards, won at Newbury 3m hdl G1 (1) gs in Dec beating Lough Derg (11-7) by 6l, 6 ran.
Celestial Halo (IRE) 6-4 (11-7) Tracked leader, raced keenly, led 5th, 6 lengthes clear approaching 2 out, stayed on well (no time taken), won at Fontwell 2m 4f hdl G2 (1) gs in Feb beating Trenchant (11-11) by 6l, 5 ran.
Cross Kennon (IRE) 8-1 (11-8) In touch in 4th, led 4 out, pushed along and headed 3 out, regained lead after 2 out, kept on gamely, driven out, won at Haydock 3m hdl G2 (1) hvy in Feb beating Bensalem (11-4) by 6l, 6 ran.
Fiveforthree (IRE) 4-7fav (11-3) Tracked leader in 2nd, slight mistake 1st, close up travelling best from 2 out, on terms when not fluent last, soon driven into lead, ran on well, easily, won at Punchestown 2m hdl hvy in Feb beating Newmill (11-0) by 4l, 6 ran.
Grands Crus (FR) 2-1fav (11-4) Keen, held up in rear, good headway 7th, chased leaders 9th, led 2 out, soon drew well clear, eased towards finish, very easily, won at Cheltenham 3m hdl G2 (1) gs in Jan beating Knockara Beau (11-0) by 10l, 14 ran.
Mourad (IRE) 4-9fav (11-8) Tracked leaders in moderate 4th, took closer order before 3 out, smooth headway to lead after 2 out, soon drew clear, not extended, impressive, won at Gowran Park 3m hdl G2 (1) sft in Jan beating Moskova (10-12) by 6l, 6 ran.
Powerstation (IRE) 11-2 (11-8) Close 2nd, not fluent 6 out, pushed along from before 3 out, weakened 2 out, soon eased, 5th of 6, 18l behind Mourad (11-8) at Gowran Park 3m hdl G2 (1) sft in Jan.
Restless Harry 7-1 (11-4) Chased leaders, hit 9th, stayed on from 2 out, kept on flat to press for 2nd but no chance with very easy winner, 3rd of 14, 10l behind Grands Crus (11-4) at Cheltenham 3m hdl G2 (1) gs in Jan.
Rigour Back Bob (IRE) 4-1 (11-8) Chased leaders, 3rd halfway, improved to lead after 4 out, ridden and headed 2 out, under pressure in 3rd last, kept on again run-in to go 2nd, 2nd of 9, 2l behind Voler La Vedette (11-3) at Navan 2m 5f hdl G2 (1) hvy in Feb.
Souffleur 16-1 (11-7) Held up towards rear, headway after 3 out, kept on to take 2nd flat, always held by winnner, 2nd of 7, 2 3/4l behind Big Buck's (11-7) at Aintree 3m hdl G1 (1) gd in Apr.
Zaynar (FR) 4-1fav (11-6) Tracked leaders, headway to lead 2 out, ridden and headed before last, kept on same pace, no impression flat, 4th of 12, 13l behind Karabak (11-2) at Cheltenham 2m 4f hdl G2 (1) gs in Dec.