Philip Hobbs has a really strong hand in this handicap as all four of his runners have decent claims. There may not be much between Return Spring and Quartz De Thaix on their run together at Cheltenham last month and it's significant that Richard Johnson rides Fingal Bay, a high-class novice at one time but returning from injury today. Berkeley Barron is a decent novice but the yard can strike with IF IN DOUBT. He was second to the very smart Saphir Du Rheu in a Listed race at Kempton last time and can shrug off a further 3lb rise in the weights. Broadway Buffalo may be the pick of David Pipe's pair and easy Huntingdon winner Carole's Destrier also catches the eye while Imperial Leader ran a cracker behind Irish Saint at Ascot and can't be ignored.
Quartz de Thaix (FR) 33-1 (11-0) Tracked leader, led narrowly after 4th, driven and outpaced after 2 out, weakened before last, 5th of 6, 11l behind Knockara Beau (11-0) at Cheltenham 3m hdl G2 (1) hvy in Jan.
Return Spring (IRE) 7-2fav (10-13) Held up in touch in mid-division, headway before 7th, went 2nd after 9th, led before last, headed flat, led final 150 yards out, stayed on, won at Cheltenham 3m hcp hdl (2) sft in Jan beating Quartz De Thaix (11-7) by 3 1/2l, 9 ran.
Fingal Bay (IRE) Evens2fav (11-5) Led, jumped badly left throughout, headed after 7th, led again approaching 10th, ran out 3 out, in a race won by Chartreux (11-0) at Exeter 2m 3f nov chs (2) hvy in Dec '12, 3 ran.
Broadway Buffalo (IRE) 9-4fav (11-11) Led and soon clear, ridden and reduced lead 3 out, headed before next, plugged on, 4th of 7, 20l behind Hidden Identity (10-11) at Huntingdon 2m 4f hcp hdl 0-150 (2) sft in Nov.
If In Doubt (IRE) 5-1 (10-13) Held up in rear, mistake 1st, headway before bumped 3 out, driven in 7th after 3 out, stayed on to chase leaders before 2 out, driven and went 2nd run in, no chance with easy winner, 2nd of 13, 6l behind Saphir Du Rheu (11-7) at Kempton 2m 5f Listed hcp hdl (1) sft in Jan.
Sheriff Hutton (IRE) 9-1 (11-7) Prominent, went 2nd after 4th, led after 6th, soon headed, ridden before 2 out, no extra last, 8th of 13, 16l behind Kangaroo Court (11-0) at Newton Abbot 2m 6f hcp hdl (2) gf in Sep.
Top Gamble (IRE) 9-2fav (11-8) Led, hit 4 out, ridden and headed after 3 out, weakened flat, 9th of 20, 17l behind Thomas Crapper (11-3) at Cheltenham 2m 5f hcp hdl 0-140 (3) gd in Nov.
Berkeley Barron (IRE) 9-2 (11-4) Chased leaders in 4th, pushed along and outpaced after 7th, plugged on to modest 4th 2 out, 4th of 7, 14l behind Timesremembered (11-0) at Chepstow 2m 4f nov hdl G2 (1) sft in Oct.
Carole's Destrier 11-8 (11-3) Tracked leaders, stayed in touch but lost several places after 2nd, headway after 5th, led 7th, clear last, stayed on, won at Huntingdon 2m 5f mdn hdl (5) hvy in Jan beating Cloud Creeper (11-6) by 16l, 8 ran.
Imperial Leader (IRE) 8-1 (10-7) Chased leading pair, hit 1st, lost place 4 out, soon outpaced, rallied under strong pressure after 3 out, went 3rd before next, went modest 2nd 2 out, no chance with easy winner, 2nd of 9, 11l behind Irish Saint (11-5) at Ascot 2m 3f Ltd hcp hdl (1) hvy in Jan.
Bathwick Brave (IRE) 8-1 (10-12) In rear, struggling from 6th, tailed off 10th, pulled up, in a race won by Bertie Boru (10-7) at Wincanton 2m 5f (3) hvy in Jan, 5 ran.
Rydon Pynes 7-1 (10-12) Held up towards rear, headway 4 out, led narrowly next, headed narrowly 2 out, soon ridden, rallied to regain lead towards finish, won at Exeter 2m 5f nov hdl (3) gs in Nov beating Flemenson (11-4) by 1l, 12 ran.
Tweedledrum 15-2 (11-0) Held up in touch, fell 2nd, in a race won by Who Owns Me (11-0) at Wetherby 3m 1f hcp hdl 0-135 (3) hvy, 7 ran.
Old Tricks (IRE) 9-1 (10-1) Towards rear, pushed along and struggling after 4th, plugged on but no impression from 2 out, 6th of 13, 20l behind Alder Mairi (10-8) at Wincanton 2m 4f hcp hdl 0-140 (3) sft in Jan.