SPEAR THISTLE is at his best over two miles in the mud, so gets the vote to land this contest from William Hogarth and First Avenue. Charlie Mann's son of Selkirk won tidily last time out and might just be up to defying a 7lb higher mark under Noel Fehily. Conditions at Lingfield that day were described as heavy and so the softer the better for this one, who is nominated ahead of William Hogarth upon whom AP McCoy takes the ride. This five-year-old was only a head behind Tasheba last time and so it'll be interesting to see how that one goes in the Lanzarote, and whilst a 6lb rise makes life tougher he remains open to improvement and could go close. That race was at Sandown under similar conditions and connections will be hopeful that the champion can drive this one home in front. First Avenue makes some appeal at the likely prices for Gary Moore, whose yard continue in decent form. The Montjeu-gelding has won on soft ground on the flat and a slight rise for a last time out second may not prove a barrier to further success for this strong travelling sort. Marchant D'Argent faces his toughest task to date taking on some solid handicappers, but the Hobbs horse won well enough last time to suggest this mark of 125 might be generous. Whether he'd want the ground as soft as is likely is debatable, but even so he's respected here. Tullamore Dew is the top rated runner but might struggle to give weight to some solid rivals although conditions will be fine, whilst In Media Res can only be watched after such an absence despite a ready success when last seen. Novikov was well held off this mark last time and might struggle once more, and with Seefin Mountain having questions to answer with regards the ground this is best left to mud lark Spear Thistle.
Tullamore Dew (IRE) 15-2 (11-5) Chased leaders, led and hit 3 out, ridden approaching next, ridden and edged left flat, soon headed, rallied near finish, 2nd of 12, nk behind Dontpaytheferryman (9-13) at Fontwell 2m 2f hcp hdl 0-130 (3) hvy in Nov.
Spear Thistle Evensfav (11-11) Raced widest of all, tracked leaders in 4th, headway to 2nd 4 out, challenged next, led on outside approaching 2 out, stayed on well (no official time taken), won at Lingfield 2m hcp hdl 0-125 (3) hvy in Nov beating Just Beware (9-9) by 6l, 6 ran.
William Hogarth 4-1 (10-9) Led, challenged halfway, hard ridden and hung left approaching last, headed and no extra close home, 2nd of 9, hd behind Tasheba (11-12) at Sandown 2m lst hcp hdl (0-150) (1) hvy in Dec.
Marchand D'argent (FR) 5-6fav (10-13) In touch, led 2 out, ridden last, ran on, won at Chepstow 2m nh nov hdl (4) gd in Apr beating Oceana Gold (11-3) by 6l, 11 ran.
First Avenue 9-1 (10-13) Raced wide, held up towards rear, chased leaders after 3 out, every chance 2 out, soon ridden, went 2nd last but not pace of winner flat, 2nd of 14, 5l behind Ronaldo Des Mottes (11-10) at Kempton 2m hcp hdl 0-135 (3) gs in Dec.
In Media Res (FR) 6-1 (10-8) Patiently ridden in rear, ridden, headway after 3 out, led, hit 2 out, not fluent last, ran on, won at Newton Abbot 2m 3f hcp hdl 0-135 (3) sft in May '08 beating Critical Stage (10-12) by 1 1/4l, 7 ran.
Seefin Mountain (IRE) 5-4fav (10-11) Raced keenly, chased leader, not fluent 3rd, left in lead 5th, hit 3 out, edged right and headed between last 2, 3rd and beaten when hit last, weakened flat, 3rd of 11, 11l behind Aohna (10-7) at Huntingdon 2m NH mdn hdl (5) gd in Nov.
Novikov 11-1 (11-1) Mid-division, headway when not fluent 5th, every chance 2 out, stayed on same pace flat, 4th of 12, 7l behind Keki Buku (11-5) at Leicester 2m hcp hdl 0-125 (3) sft in Dec.