Another big field and several have solid claims. Royal Native got off the mark over course and distance last week and should make a bold bid to follow up under a penalty but Bob Tucker has more to do than when landing a maiden hurdle at Worcester last month. Dan Skelton's string has been in good form and Chepstow third Twice Returned is unexposed but Moorlands Mist, Armenian Boy and Bladoun all lack a recent run and Royale Knight is probably better over fences. Nicene Creed has never convinced over this longer trip, though should strip fitter for his comeback at Uttoxeter. BALLYCULLA made steady progress last season and there was plenty to like about his recent third at Plumpton. Today's conditions will suit so he gets a tentative vote.
Moorlands Mist 9-1 (11-5) In rear, jumped slowly 2nd, headway after 3 out, outpaced by leaders before next, stayed on flat, went 3rd towards finish, no chance with winner, 3rd of 17, 18l behind Lower Hope Dandy (10-9) at Cheltenham 3m nov hcp hdl 0-125 (3) gs in Apr.
Armenian Boy (FR) 9-2fav (11-7) Pressed leader, led 14th, in command last, idled and hung left flat, held on, won at Ludlow 3m hcp chs 0-120 (4) gd in Oct '12 beating Vincitore (11-5) by nk, 14 ran.
Ballyculla (IRE) 5-1 (11-9) Held up towards rear, headway 4 out, challenged in 3rd on inside 3 out, kept on same pace before next, 3rd of 9, 11l behind Cannon Fodder (10-11) at Plumpton 3m 1f hcp hdl 0-130 (3) sft in Oct.
Royal Native (IRE) 8-1 (11-6) Led to 1st, remained prominent, led again 3 out, soon hard pressed, ridden and held on under pressure flat, won at Exeter 2m 7f hcp hdl 0-115 (4) gs beating Tarvini (10-13) by 1l, 12 ran.
Twice Returned (IRE) 8-1 (10-12) Led until slow and headed 2nd, chased leader until soon after 3 out, kept on same pace in 3rd, 3rd of 9, 8l behind Killala Quay (11-5) at Chepstow 2m 4f nh nov hdl (4) gd in Oct.
Bob Tucker (IRE) 11-10 (10-12) Pressed leader, lunged at 9th and slithered on landing, left in lead 3 out, ridden when mistake 2 out, clear last, stayed on, won at Worcester 2m 7f mdn hdl (5) gd in Oct beating Mr Bachster (10-5) by 25l, 4 ran.
Virginia Ash (IRE) 33-1 (11-3) Held up mid-division, headway after 5 out, ridden and weakened before 4 out, 7th of 13, 44l behind Minella For Steak (11-5) at Chepstow 3m hcp hdl 0-125 (3) hvy.
Bladoun (FR) 12-1 (11-4) Towards rear, pushed along 5th, headway before 3 out, weakened before 2 out, 10th of 17, well behind Midnight Prayer (11-2) at Wincanton 2m 6f hcp hdl 0-125 (3) gd in Apr.
Buckhorn Tom 5-1 (11-12) Prominent, not always fluent, lost place 6th, well beaten after 3 out, 8th of 13, 43l behind Letemgo (11-5) at Wincanton 2m 4f nov hcp hdl 0-115 (4) gd in Oct.
Sir Frank (IRE) 20-1 (11-8) Mid-division on inside, chased leaders 3 out, kept on same pace from next, never on terms, 5th of 12, 13l behind Flicka Williams (11-3) at Uttoxeter 3m hcp hdl 0-120 (4) gd in Oct.
Pyleigh Lass 9-2 (11-12) Took keen hold tracking leaders, lost place 6th, weakened before 3 out, 8th of 11, 17l behind Ray Diamond (10-3) at Exeter 2m 3f hcp hdl 0-115 (4) gs in Oct.
Wood Yer (IRE) 7-4fav (11-12) Pressed leader, lost place 10th, ridden and outpaced 12th, no impression when left 4th and hampered 4 out, weakened from next, tailed off, 4th of 6, 45l behind Frank The Slink (10-13) at Carlisle 2m 5f nov hcp chs 0-120 (4) gs in Mar '12.
Royale Knight 7-4fav (10-13) Mid-division, ridden before 6 out, weakened from 12th, 7th of 8, well behind Ballybough Gorta (11-9) at Cartmel 3m 2f hcp chs 0-130 (3) gd in Aug.
Count Vettori (IRE) 66-1 (10-10) Held up, headway after 8th, outpaced 4 out, mistake last, stayed on flat, 5th of 11, 8l behind Great Gusto (11-3) at Chepstow 3m NH mdn hdl (5) sft in Mar '12.
Sandynow (IRE) 5-1fav (11-7) Chased leaders in 3rd, led after 7th, headed 9th, weakened before 5 out and pulled up, in a race won by Stormyisland Ahead (11-6) at Chepstow 3m hcp chs 0-105 (4) hvy, 12 ran.
Nicene Creed 20-1 (11-12) Held up towards rear, headway before 5 out, ridden before 3 out, soon outpaced, plugged on from 2 out, went 3rd run-in, 3rd of 14, 12l behind Silver Dragon (10-11) at Uttoxeter 2m 4f hcp hdl 0-100 (5) gs in Oct.
Cruising Bye 4-1 (10-0) Held up in rear, mistake 7th, headway approaching 9th, ridden 3 out, 5th and beaten last, stayed on to take 4th towards finish, no impression, 4th of 8, 7l behind Josies Orders (10-13) at Aintree 3m nov hcp hdl 0-120 (4) gs in Oct.