Apache Stronghold, a close third in last year's Champion Bumper at Punchestown, scrambled home on his hurdling debut then showed the benefit with an impressive victory over today's rival Azorian in a Navan Grade 2 where he defied a last-flight blunder. Le Vent D'Antan has gradually improved and looked a smart recruit when stepping up to this trip for the first time at Navan and easily beating Painted Lady. Balbir Du Mathan cost 300,000 euros after landing a Listed contest at Auteuil in November and makes his debut for Gordon Elliott so there will be plenty resting on this run. RENNETI's narrow defeat by The Tullow Tank in the Grade 1 Royal Bond here in December is the best form on offer. He subsequently fell when cantering at Limerick and looks the one to be on. Lieutenant Colonel is lightly-raced and very promising so he could be the main threat.
Apache Stronghold (IRE) 9-2 (11-3) Tracked leaders, improved into close 2nd travelling well after 3 out, led from 2 out, mistake at last and pushed along briefly early run-in, stayed on well inside final furlong, not extended, won at Navan 2m 4f nov hdl G2 (1) in Nov beating Azorian (11-3) by 3l, 8 ran.
Azorian (IRE) 16-1 (11-10) Tracked leaders in 5th, in rear and ridden after 3 out, no extra after 2 out and eased in straight, completely tailed off, last of 6, well behind Vautour (11-9) at Leopardstown 2m 2f nov hdl G2 (1) in Feb.
Balbir Du Mathan (FR) 3-1 (10-3) won at Auteuil(FR) 2m 2f 4yo lst hdl gd in Nov beating Viviane Royale (10-5) by 2 1/2l, 10 ran.
Festive Felon (IRE) 11-4fav (11-4) Led 1st, headed 3rd, 2nd halfway, mistake 7th, jumped right 5 out and 4 out, 4th when right 3 out, soon ridden, left in lead approaching 2 out, joined last, headed run-in and no extra, lost 2nd dying strides, 3rd of 9, 1 1/4l behind Thunder And Roses (10-13) at Navan 2m 7f nov hdl sft in Mar.
Gallant Tipp (IRE) 4-1 (11-3) Held up, slight mistake 1st, improved to 3rd briefly at 4th, soon held up again, progress into 4th 4 out, ridden into 2nd before last, no impression on winner, kept on same pace, 2nd of 7, 8l behind Giantofaman (11-3) at Thurles 2m 4f nov hdl Grade 2 (1) hvy in Feb.
Le Vent D'Antan (FR) 2-5fav (11-11) Chased leaders, 3rd halfway, improved to lead 6th, asserted before 2 out where slight mistake, clear when slight mistake last, easily, won at Navan 2m 4f mdn hdl sft in Mar beating Painted Lady (10-13) by 9l, 9 ran.
Lieutenant Colonel 10-1 (11-7) In touch on outside, driven to chase leaders before 2 out, effort on outside between last 2, outpaced before last, ridden and weakened flat, 6th of 15, 13l behind Faugheen (11-7) at Cheltenham 2m 5f nov hdl Grade 1 (1) gd in Mar.
Moonshine Lad (IRE) 8-11fav (11-10) Tracked leaders, took closer order after 5th on outer, went 2nd 5 out, led before 2 out, ridden and headed before last, kept on towards finish, 2nd of 5, 1/2l behind I Need Gold (11-10) at Ayr 3m nh nov hdl (4) hvy in Mar.
Mr Fiftyone (IRE) 9-1 (11-3) Chased leaders, 4th halfway, ridden in 3rd 3 out, no extra approaching 2 out where left 4th, kept on one pace, 5th of 9, 15l behind Thunder And Roses (10-13) at Navan 2m 7f nov hdl sft in Mar.
Renneti (FR) 9-10fav (11-8) Chased leaders, mainly 3rd, 2nd after 6 out, 3rd before straight, improved to narrow lead when fell 2 out, in a race won by Mazuri Cowboy (11-11) at Limerick 2m 3f hdl hvy in Dec, 5 ran.
Rightdownthemiddle (IRE) 12-1 (11-4) Mid-division early, progress to chase leaders in 3rd at 4th, 2nd 5 out, ridden to lead after 3 out, ran out approaching 2 out, in a race won by Thunder And Roses (10-13) at Navan 2m 7f nov hdl sft in Mar, 9 ran.
Upazo (FR) 33-1 (11-0) Behind, some headway 2 out, soon weakened, 22nd of 28, 50l behind Lac Fontana (10-11) at Cheltenham 2m 1f hcp hdl G3 (1) gd in Mar.
Urano (FR) 5-6fav (11-3) Held up towards rear, mistake 4 out, progress into 5th 2 out, ridden in 4th and no impression before last, no extra run-in, 6th of 7, 13l behind Giantofaman (11-3) at Thurles 2m 4f nov hdl Grade 2 (1) hvy in Feb.
Feenakilmeedy (IRE) 6-4fav (11-7) Held up, towards rear when fell 5th, in a race won by Our Katie (11-2) at Limerick 2m 3f hvy in Mar, 8 ran.