A cracking contest where, in receipt of weight from Theatrical Moment, DOCTOR PAT is taken to score. It would be interesting to know which of the pair Tony McCoy would be choosing if it weren't for his retainer with J P McManus, but without that knowledge we will still side with the Francois Doumen-trained Doctor Pat. The six-year-old stayed on strongly up the Sandown hill in testing ground to win in December, before following up at Newbury's Christmas meeting. The likely strong pace combined with soft ground should suit him ideally over this trip, and he can defy an 8lb rise. Theatrical Moment comes here on the back of successive Leicester wins over this trip and also further. He acts on soft ground, though has done all of his best work on good ground in recent times, and with a 7lb rise giving him a massive 12st 2lbs to shoulder here we will take him on. Hey Big Spender has conditions to suit and takes a marked drop in trip after being comfortably accounted for here last time by Inchidaly Rock. You could argue that he is unexposed over this distance, but the concern is that connections have clearly seen him as a stayer in recent outings. Five Dream should get very competitive from this mark but does have it prove over the trip and he is unlikely to be allowed much respite, while Pigeon Island is hugely respected despite a string of seconds, and his enthusiasm will see him bang there. Ernst Blofeld enjoyed a facile Uttoxeter win and now has to step in against some tougher opposition, but with the yard flying you wouldn't rule him out, though preference is for Doctor Pat.
Theatrical Moment (USA) 8-11fav (11-6) Tracked leader, led 4th, asserted 3 out, soon clear, eased flat, won at Leicester 2m 7f nov chs (3) sft in Dec beating Prince Taime (10-11) by 7l, 3 ran.
Hey Big Spender (IRE) 11-2 (11-6) Tracked leading pair, challenged 10th, narrowly lead next, hit 13th, ridden and headed before 2 out, soon no chance with winner, hit last, 2nd of 6, 9l behind Inchidaly Rock (11-6) at Cheltenham 3m 1f nov chs (2) sft in Dec.
Edgbriar (FR) 8-1 (10-11) Tracked leaders, challenged after 3 out, disputed lead last, hard ridden to lead flat, driven out, won at Doncaster 2m 3f beg chs (4) gd in Dec beating Cockney Trucker (11-0) by 1/2l, 6 ran.
Five Dream (FR) 5-2 (11-8) Held up in 4th, mistake 4th, not fluent next, driven to challenge 4 out, chased winner next, never able to challenge, 2nd of 4, 4l behind Victorias Groom (11-4) at Fakenham 2m 5f nov stks (3) sft.
Den of Iniquity 12-1 (11-6) Chased leaders, pecked 5th, left 2nd at 8th, hit 11th, ridden when jumped right 4 out, left behind from 3 out, tailed off, 2nd of 7, 32l behind Take The Breeze (11-10) at Newbury 2m 2f nov chs (3) sft in Dec.
Coq Hardi (FR) 10-3 (11-11) In touch, led 2nd, ridden and headed between last 2, lost 2nd before last, kept on same pace, 3rd of 6, 4 1/2l behind Strawberry (11-12) at Fakenham 3m hcp chs 0-135 (3) gs in Nov.
Pigeon Island 15-8 (11-0) Tracked winner, not fluent 11th, pushed along 13th, pecked 4 out, ridden after 2 out, no impression last, eased final 100 yards, last of 2, 18l behind Seven Is My Number (11-7) at Cheltenham 2m 5f nov chs G2 (1) sft.
Ernst Blofeld (IRE) 8-15fav (11-0) Tracked leaders, blundered 1st, hit 5 out, led next, stayed on well from last, won at Uttoxeter 2m 4f beg chs (4) sft in Dec beating Hinton Thunderbolt (11-0) by 8l, 7 ran.
Midnight Chase 9-2 (10-12) Led early, chased leaders and raced wide, chased winner after 2 out, well held when jumped badly left last, 2nd of 4, 14l behind Tazbar (11-4) at Huntingdon 2m 4f nov stks (3) sft.
Doctor Pat (IRE) 9-4fav (10-13) Held up in rear, blundered 6th, steady headway from 13th, chased leaders after 2 out, driven to challenge approaching last, stayed on under pressure to lead run-in, won at Newbury 2m 6f nov hcp chs 0-130 (3) hvy in Dec beating Reblis (10-0) by 1 1/4l, 13 ran.
Etxalar (FR) 7-2fav (11-10) Chased leaders, lost place 5 out, weakened and pulled up after next, in a race won by Stormin Exit (10-8) at Newcastle 2m 4f hcp chs 0-125 (3) hvy, 10 ran.
Plein Pouvoir (FR) 10-1 (11-12) Tracked leaders, headway to lead after 13th, ridden clear between last 2, stayed on well, comfortably, won at Wincanton 2m 5f hcp chs 0-115 (4) sft in Dec beating Michigan d'Isop (11-6) by 6l, 14 ran.