This is a fascinating race that could unearth some key Cheltenham Festival clues; in it we'll take MASTER OF THE HALL to hold off the likely challenge from The Minack to cement his seat at the top table come March. Nicky Henderson's charge arrived with a tall reputation after a point-to-point win and was always going to leave his modest bumper fourth behind when taking to obstacles. That has proved to be the case as he's scored twice on desperate ground, in the process suggesting this step up in distance will be right up his street. Neither success has been flashy but he appeals as the type to get the job done so gets the vote ahead of The Minack. Paul Nicholls' son of King's Theatre looks a chaser in the making and will have no excuses with regards trip and ground. It's debatable whether he was a deserving winner at Kempton last time as Kennel Hill downed tools approaching two out but nevertheless he's shown steadily progressive form barring one flop at Cheltenham, an effort that is excusable as he made a bad mistake halfway through the contest. He's rated within a pound of our selection and might prove the better long-term prospect, but for now we like Master Of The Hall to emerge best. That's not to underestimate the claims of the other three; Sarando has progressed with racing and will love the ground, Night Orbit was in the process of running a big race when unseating last time and Reaction should relish the step up in trip having shaped with promise on debut, but the standard of the market leaders might prove a bridge too far and we'll return to Master Of The Hall.
Master Of The Hall (IRE) 5-4fav (11-11) Made all, pushed 2 lengths clear approaching last, stayed on strongly, won at Newbury 2m nov hdl (4) sft in Jan beating Nice One Eric (11-4) by 4l, 15 ran.
The Minack (IRE) 9-4 (11-8) Raced wide, led to 2nd, stayed prominent, went 2nd before 2 out, led as leader, reluctant 2 out, clear before last, ridden right out, won at Kempton 2m 5f nh nov hdl (3) sft in Jan beating Kennel Hill (11-2) by 8l, 12 ran.
Night Orbit 40-1 (10-10) Led until blundered and unseated rider 8th, in a race won by Alfie Sherrin (11-4) at Newbury 3m hcp hdl 0-140 (2) gs, 18 ran.
Sarando 5-2 (11-4) Led until 3rd, chased leader, led again narrowly 3 out, kept slight advantage until drew clear before last, eased towards finish, won at Lingfield 2m 3f nh nov hdl (4) hvy beating Rif (11-4) by 13l, 12 ran.
Reaction 40-1 (11-0) Bumped 1st, in touch, pushed along and well outpaced after 3 out, headway under pressure approaching last, kept on into 3rd near finish, no chance with front pair, 3rd of 7, 7l behind Baccalaureate (11-0) at Cheltenham 2m 1f 4yo nov hdl G2 (1) sft in Jan.