MENDO can post a surprise in this contest with Royaleety and Laredo Sound sure to have their supporters. Noel Chance's representative has been in modest form on softer surfaces but it is worth noting that his better form has obtained with genuinely good ground and he has dropped to a feasible handicap mark. The 5lb claim of Rhys Flint also catches the eye. Royaleety was unconsidered in the market before dotting up on Boxing Day. That was only his second ever start for Nicky Henderson and the Seven Barrows handler may be capable of gleaning further improvement. Laredo Sound won in first time cheekpieces at Doncaster. He is capable of demonstrating his form on any surface and had chased home the smart Deep Purple at Taunton last November. Mud Monkey has held plenty of entries over the last week or so. There is a cogent argument to suggest that he may be well treated versus some of his older form. Earth Dream is still a maiden but it would be folly to discount anything from Paul Nicholls' stable in handicaps. Owlesbury Dream seems better against her own sex while The Hairy Lemon is still capable of landing a prize of this nature and must be watched in the market. Mendo is not without negatives but at the likely odds, he makes most appeal.
Laredo Sound (IRE) 11-1 (10-12) Chased leaders, challenged 2f out, hung left approaching last, soon driven, led last 100 yards, won at Doncaster 2m 3f hcp hdl 0-135 (3) sft in Jan beating Serhaaphim (10-4) by 3/4l, 13 ran.
Royaleety (FR) 25-1 (10-2) Took keen hold, chased leaders, ridden before 2 out, led between last 2, ridden and kept on strongly run-in, won at Kempton 2m 5f hcp hdl 0-135 (3) gd in Dec beating Onnix (11-5) by 2 1/2l, 19 ran.
Mendo 7-1 (11-9) Mid-division, headway 7th, joined leader next, ridden approaching 2 out, weakened last, 5th of 8, 27l behind Captain Americo (10-10) at Wincanton 2m 6f hcp hdl 0-135 (3) sft in Feb.
Nikos Extra (FR) 5-1jt-fav (11-12) Held up towards rear, headway and not much room on bend after 3 out, ridden to chase leaders after next, weakened last, 8th of 16, 13l behind Cruchain (11-7) at Ascot 2m 6f hcp hdl 0-125 (3) gs in Dec.
Zonergem 50-1 (11-1) Hit 3rd, always in rear, tailed off, 14th of 19, 45l behind Royaleety (10-2) at Kempton 2m 5f hcp hdl 0-135 (3) gd in Dec.
Shannon Springs (IRE) 16-1 (10-10) Held up towards rear, rapid headway to press leaders 5th, ridden and weakened soon after 4 out, 11th of 14, 25l behind Eleazar (11-2) at Kempton 2m 5f hcp hdl 0-135 (3) gs in Feb.
The Hairy Lemon 10-1 (11-12) In touch, reminders 7th, mistake and dropped to rear after 9th, behind when pulled up at the 10th in race won by Le Burf (11-8) at Kempton 2m 4f hcp chs 0-130 (3) gd in Feb, 9 ran.
Owlesbury Dream (IRE) 33-1 (10-6) Always behind, never on terms, 9th of 14, 20l behind Oscardeal (10-5) at Southwell 2m 4f hcp hdl 0-140 (2) gs in Feb.
Mud Monkey 28-1 (11-6) Led, clear after 3rd, ridden when hit 2 out, no extra when headed towards finish, 2nd of 10, 1/2l behind Master d'Or (11-2) at Exeter 2m 3f hcp hdl 0-115 (4) gd.
Buster Collins (IRE) 5-1 (12-0) Led to 12; pulled up in race won by Merry Vic (12-0) at Parham 3m ptp in Mar '08, 12 ran.
Earth Dream (IRE) 11-1 (11-4) Held up, soon in touch, ridden and weakened after 9th, 5th of 10, 38l behind Gee Dee Nen (11-4) at Ludlow 3m mdn hdl (4) gs in Feb.
Karasakal (IRE) 9-2 (10-10) Prominent, raced keenly, ridden after 8th, weakened approaching 2 out, 7th of 9, 42l behind Patsy Finnegan (11-6) at Ludlow 2m 5f nov hcp hdl (3) gd in Feb.