This is one of the richest handicap hurdles on the calendar and it's regularly targeted by the big yards with their up-and-coming hurdlers. Five and six-year-olds tend to dominate but we fancy CHELTENIAN to buck the trends this season as the handicapper may have let Philip Hobbs' charge in lightly. He proved his well-being with an effortless victory in a maiden hurdle at Uttoxeter in December and the former Champion Bumper looks well treated on his handicap debut off a mark of 134 given he ran the 145-rated Minella Forfitness to a short-head at Doncaster around this time last year. Rolling Star and Irish Saint finished behind Chris Pea Green in the Ladbroke just before Christmas but the latter has since won easily at Ascot over a longer trip. Dell'Arca was badly impeded and unseated his rider in the Ladbroke but was going well at the time and is interesting here off the same mark while Willie Mullins' Smashing is on a hat-trick. The consistent Deep Trouble should run his race again and Totalize could have each-way claims but previous winner Recession Proof has a lot to prove now and Vendor is 8lb higher than when scoring over 2m3f here in November.
Rolling Star (FR) 15-2 (11-11) In touch on outside, pushed along before 4 out, weakened after next, 11th of 20, 26l behind Willow's Saviour (10-5) at Ascot 2m hcp hdl Grade 3 (1) sft in Dec.
Far West (FR) 11-10fav (11-6) Tracked leaders, slow 3 out, effort next, weakened before last, 4th of 5, 9l behind Rolling Star (11-6) at Haydock 2m hdl (2) sft in Nov.
Irish Saint (FR) 6-1 (11-5) Tracked leader, led 3 out, came clear before 2 out, easily, won at Ascot 2m 3f Ltd hcp hdl (1) hvy in Jan beating Imperial Leader (10-7) by 11l, 9 ran.
Smashing (FR) 13-8 (11-7) Prominent, not fluent 2nd, soon 2nd, led approaching straight, travelling smoothly before 2 out, clear from before last, stayed on well, easily, won at Limerick 2m 4yo hdl hvy in Dec beating Carriganog (11-7) by 7l, 6 ran.
Act Of Kalanisi (IRE) 15-2 (11-4) Led and clear, hit and pecked badly and unseated rider 4 out, in a race won by Melodic Rendezvous (11-8) at Haydock 2m hdl G2 (1) hvy in Jan, 6 ran.
Chris Pea Green 12-1 (11-0) Took keen hold tracking leaders, pushed along before 2 out, hit 2 out, soon driven, keeping on same pace and held when blundered last, went 4th last stride, 4th of 20, 15l behind Willow's Saviour (10-5) at Ascot 2m hcp hdl Grade 3 (1) sft in Dec.
Gibb River (IRE) 8-1 (11-12) Chased leaders, weakened approaching last, 9th of 17, 16l behind Vendor (10-12) at Newbury 2m 3f hcp hdl 0-150 (2) sft in Nov.
Deep Trouble (IRE) 10-3 (11-5) Patiently ridden and held up in rear, smooth headway approaching 2 out, slightly hampered 2 out and switched left soon after, produced to track winner approaching last, upsides and every chance flat, outbattled final strides, 2nd of 10, hd behind Lyvius (11-4) at Kempton 2m hcp hdl 0-140 (3) sft in Jan.
Montbazon (FR) 15-2 (11-7) Tracked leaders, challenged 2 out, led between last 2, headed narrowly when not fluent last, soon ridden, kept on flat, 4th of 19, 1 3/4l behind Cinders And Ashes (11-7) at Cheltenham 2m nov hdl Grade 1 (1) gd in Mar '12.
Vasco Du Ronceray (FR) 6-1 (11-0) Mid-division, headway before 3 out to go 4th, weakened before 2 out, 7th of 10, 13l behind L'unique (10-7) at Aintree 2m 4yo hdl Grade 1 (1) gd in Apr.
Vendor (FR) 16-1 (10-12) Held up in rear, mistake 1st, steady headway on inside 3 out, chasing leaders and mistake 2 out, went 2nd approaching and hit last, ridden to lead flat, won going away, won at Newbury 2m 3f hcp hdl 0-150 (2) sft in Nov beating Shotavodka (11-1) by 2 1/2l, 17 ran.
First Avenue 28-1 (11-2) Took keen hold, held up in last pair, pushed along after 4 out, soon outpaced, never involved, 8th of 10, 32l behind Lyvius (11-4) at Kempton 2m hcp hdl 0-140 (3) sft in Jan.
Swing Bowler 7-1 (11-0) Mid-division, outpaced 3 out, ridden and one pace on inside between last 2, weakened last, 15th of 19, 37l behind Quevega (11-5) at Cheltenham 2m 4f hdl G2 (1) sft in Mar.
Dell' Arca (IRE) 15-2 (10-11) In mid-division when badly hampered and unseated rider 3 out, in a race won by Willow's Saviour (10-5) at Ascot 2m hcp hdl Grade 3 (1) sft in Dec, 20 ran.
Jumps Road 28-1 (11-4) In touch in 4th, headway to track leaders before 3 out, ridden before and not fluent last, one pace and just held on for 3rd close home, 3rd of 6, 16l behind Melodic Rendezvous (11-8) at Haydock 2m hdl G2 (1) hvy in Jan.
Cheltenian (FR) 2-7fav (11-0) Tracked leaders, went 2nd from 2nd, led 4th, drew clear after 2 out, easily, won at Uttoxeter 2m mdn hdl (5) hvy in Dec beating Fergal Mael Duin (11-0) by 7l, 7 ran.
Splash of Ginge 16-1 (11-4) Held up, raced keenly, closed 7th, chased winner before 2 out, no impression, lost 2nd last, no exta, 3rd of 8, 16l behind Deputy Dan (11-4) at Warwick 2m 5f nov hdl Grade 2 (1) hvy in Jan.
Recession Proof (FR) 20-1 (10-9) Tracking leaders when fell heavily 3 out, in a race won by Willow's Saviour (10-5) at Ascot 2m hcp hdl Grade 3 (1) sft in Dec, 20 ran.
Alaivan (IRE) 10-1 (11-7) Chased leaders, went 2nd before 2 out, ridden and lost 2nd before last, kept on to regain 2nd towards finish, 2nd of 15, 3 1/2l behind Quick Decisson (10-12) at Wincanton 2m hcp hdl 0-130 (3) hvy in Jan.
Totalize 8-1 (11-0) Held up behind in touch, hit 3rd, headway on inside 2 out, stayed on to challenge and every chance last, soon ridden and one pace, well held final 110 yards, 2nd of 10, 5l behind Lac Fontana (10-12) at Cheltenham 2m 1f hcp hdl (2) hvy in Jan.
Prompter 4-1 (11-5) Behind, headway approaching 3 out, shaken up to chase leaders next, ran on, nearest finish, 3rd of 10, 2l behind Fergall (11-4) at Huntingdon 2m hcp hdl 0-130 (3) gs in Dec.
Poet 6-1 (11-6) With leaders, led before 6th, soon headed, weakened before 2 out, 6th of 15, 25l behind Quick Decisson (10-12) at Wincanton 2m hcp hdl 0-130 (3) hvy in Jan.