STATE BENEFIT showed no ill-effects of the crashing fall he suffered at Fontwell on his chasing bow when winning a beginners' chase at Exeter last time. He posted a fluent round of jumping on that occasion and further progress is expected here. Our Mick won a handicap at Kempton on Boxing Day, beating previous winner Bless The Wings by six lengths, and that form looks stronger than Cotswold Charmer's victory over 3m1f at Bangor last month. French import Majala has plenty of ability but his jumping lets him down and he made a couple of blunders before being pulled up at Wetherby last time, while Milo Milan is another who is proving less than fluent over fences despite a victory at Bangor in November.
Our Mick 4-1fav (11-8) Pressed leader, led after 4 out, stayed on well from next, driven out, won at Kempton 2m 4f nov hcp chs 0-130 (3) gs in Dec beating Bless The Wings (11-9) by 6l, 13 ran.
Cotswold Charmer (IRE) 9-4fav (11-8) Held up towards rear, headway before 12th, led 2 out, pressed from last, kept on well towards finish, won at Bangor 3m hcp chs 0-115 (4) hvy in Dec beating Canal Bank (11-1) by 1 1/2l, 8 ran.
Majala (FR) 7-4fav (10-13) Tracked leading pair, blundered 2nd, mistake 4th, joined leader 10th, outpaced when mistake and rider lost iron briefly 4 out, weakened next, pulled up 2 out, in a race won by Mac Aeda (10-13) at Wetherby 2m 4f nov chs (3) sft in Dec, 5 ran.
Milo Milan (IRE) 11-4fav (11-12) Took keen hold, chased leader, mistake and lost 2nd 6th and driven, chased leading pair, mistake 9th, under pressure before 11th, weakened next, tailed off and pulled up after 2 out, in a race won by Rigadin De Beauchene (10-5) at Hereford 2m 5f hcp chs 0-120 (4) sft in Dec, 11 ran.
State Benefit (IRE) 3-1 (11-0) Tracked leader, led 4th, clear 6th until approaching 8th, came clear again 4 out, steadied into last, idled closing stages, in command and always doing enough, won at Exeter 2m 3f beg chase (4) sft beating Clash Duff (10-9) by 1 1/2l, 6 ran.