Forever My Friend has won three times this year, twice over this course and distance. But he fell when favourite at Cartmel last month and has been raised a further pound since. The handicapper may have his measure now whereas FAVOURED NATION hasn't given the assessor much to work with and is probably still ahead of the game judged on his victory at Uttoxeter, where he came through strongly despite making several jumping errors - he can only improve. Fairwood Massini is back over fences having shown some decent form over this trip over hurdles and he makes more appeal than Wait No More and enigmatic veteran Battlecry, who returns from a lay-off.
Forever My Friend (IRE) 2-1fav (12-1) Tracked leaders, hampered and fell 6th, in a race won by Cruchain (11-9) at Cartmel 2m 5f hcp chs 0-110 (4) gf in Jul, 11 ran.
Favoured Nation (IRE) 4-1 (11-12) Held up towards rear, not always fluent, mistake 8th, headway before 12th, went 2nd before 2 out, led last, driven out, won at Uttoxeter 2m 5f nov hcp chs 0-100 (5) gf in Jul beating Pure Anticipation (11-4) by 1 1/2l, 10 ran.
Battlecry 33-1 (9-8) Chased leader, awakward 5th, lost 2nd at 10th, chased leaders until blundered and nearly unseated rider 13th, soon lost place and in rear, tailed off approaching 4 out, pulled up soon after, in a race won by Swing Bill (11-4) at Cheltenham 3m am hcp chs 0-140 (3) gs in Nov, 14 ran.
Fairwood Massini (IRE) 3-1 (11-6) Led, ridden after 3out, headed between last 2, no extra, 2nd of 8, 4l behind Jimmy The Hat (11-12) at Perth 2m 4f nov hcp hdl 0-110 (4) gf.
Wait No More (IRE) 12-1 (11-11) Prominent, led after 2nd, headed 9th, weakened after last, 5th of 11, 40l behind Cruchain (11-9) at Cartmel 2m 5f hcp chs 0-110 (4) gf in Jul.