Cup Final was only beaten four lengths by IRVING in a Taunton novice hurdle in November and, theoretically, would have every chance of turning the tables on 7lb better terms. But Paul Nicholls' six-year-old has made giant strides since, winning easily twice at Ascot including a Grade 2 by six lengths. The four-timer beckons though First Mohican is an interesting rival as he was decent on the level and made a winning start to his hurdles career at Doncaster despite showing signs of inexperience. Amore Alato is a course and distance winner and no mug while there are races to be won with Germany Calling, though probably not today. Dubai Prince was pulled up when Amore Alato won here on Boxing Day and is a little quirky, while Vaihau makes his hurdling debut.
Amore Alato 4-1fav (11-6) With leader, effort to lead before last, soon hard pressed, ridden and headed flat, no extra, 3rd of 10, 11l behind Lac Fontana (10-12) at Cheltenham 2m 1f hcp hdl (2) hvy in Jan.
Irving 11-4 (11-7) Held up in last pair, hit 2nd, closer order approaching 4 out, tracking leaders before 2 out, switched right between last 2, led narrowly going to the last where left clear, ridden out, won at Ascot 2m nov hdl G2 (1) sft in Dec beating Volnay De Thaix (11-7) by 6l, 6 ran.
Dubai Prince (IRE) 7-2 (11-11) Held up mid-division, headway 4 out, went 3rd before 3 out, soon led, headed before last, one pace, 3rd of 18, 17l behind Pearl Castle (10-7) at Doncaster 2m nh nov hdl (4) gs in Jan.
First Mohican 7-2 (10-12) Held up towards rear, headway before 3 out, led 2 out, ridden run-in, kept on gamely, won at Doncaster 2m nov hdl (4) gs beating Huff And Puff (10-12) by 3/4l, 14 ran.
Cup Final (IRE) 10-11fav (10-12) Took keen hold tracking leaders, went 2nd 6th, hit 3 out, led narrowly 2 out, ridden between last 2, joined last, soon headed and not pace of winner, 2nd of 13, 4l behind Irving (10-12) at Taunton 2m 1f nh nov hdl (3) gd in Nov.
Germany Calling (IRE) 4-1 (11-0) In touch in mid-division, hampered 2nd, went 3rd from next, chased winner 2 out, soon ridden, stayed on, no impression flat, 2nd of 10, 4 1/2l behind Lac Fontana (11-0) at Cheltenham 2m mdn hdl (3) gd in Oct.
Vaihau (FR) (10-1) won at Argentan(FR) 1m 6f nhf sft in Sep beating Utoni Star (10-12) by shd, 14 ran.