Walkon was just denied by Tiger O'Toole over 2m4f at Ascot last month with Notus De La Tour a staying-on fourth and SOLDATINO sixth. All three can be expected to improve for the run and the last-named looks particularly interesting and gets the vote. Victorious in last season's Triumph Hurdle, Nicky Henderson's five-year-old blew up entering the straight at Ascot but had moved really well up to that point and is unlikely to pull as hard today. Henderson also saddles classy French import Solix and the consistent Eradicate, while Walkon's trainer Alan King also has two other entries including impressive Exeter winner Salden Licht. Last year's winner Get Me Out Of Here may have too much weight this time around, but Willie Mullins' Sweet My Lord could be interesting and Brian Ellison's pair Bothy and Palomar are others to consider in a cracking renewal.
Solix (FR) (10-5) 4th of 12, 8l behind Bel La Vie (10-5) at Auteuil(FR) 2m 3f 4yo hdl Grd 1 hvy in Nov.
Salden Licht 2-1fav (11-12) Raced on inside, held up, smooth headway before 3 out, soon tracking leader, challenged on bit 2 out, led before last, came clear flat, easily, won at Exeter 2m 1f hcp hdl (2) gs in Jan beating Sir Kezbaah (10-3) by 1 1/2l, 11 ran.
Get Me Out Of Here (IRE) 7-1 (11-11) Raced wide, held up towards rear, headway on outside before 4th, chased leaders 4 out, every chance when hit 3 out, weakened before next, 6th of 17, 23l behind Menorah (11-12) at Cheltenham 2m hcp hdl Grade 3 (1) gs in Nov.
Nearby 10-1 (11-7) Chased leading pair, ridden pushed left and stumbled 2 out, outpaced soon after, last of 5, 31l behind Peddlers Cross (11-7) at Newbury 2m hdl G1 (1) gs in Nov.
Walkon (FR) 12-1 (11-10) Held up towards rear, headway 3 out, soon chasing leaders, led just after last, hard ridden and headed close home, no extra, 2nd of 14, 1/2l behind Tiger O'Toole (10-5) at Ascot 2m 3f hcp hdl G2 (1) gs in Jan.
Soldatino (FR) 11-2 (11-10) Held up in rear, headway approaching 8th, chased leaders 3 out, held when hampered 2 out, 6th of 14, 19l behind Tiger O'Toole (10-5) at Ascot 2m 3f hcp hdl G2 (1) gs in Jan.
Eradicate (IRE) 14-1 (11-7) Took keen hold in touch, chased leading pair under pressure between after 2 out until approaching last, stayed on same pace, 4th of 16, 12l behind Art Professor (10-5) at Cheltenham 2m 1f hcp hdl (2) gs in Jan.
Notus De La Tour (FR) 3-1fav (11-3) Held up towards rear, headway 3 out, stayed on to take moderate 4th approaching last, never troubled leaders, 4th of 14, 14l behind Tiger O'Toole (10-5) at Ascot 2m 3f hcp hdl G2 (1) gs in Jan.
The Betchworth Kid 3-1fav (10-10) Mid-division, blundered 3rd, ridden and outpaced 4 out, weakened from next, 13th of 19, well behind James De Vassy (11-2) at Kempton 2m 5f hcp hdl (2) gs in Jan.
Bothy 2-1fav (11-0) Mid-division, headway 8f out, ridden over 4f out, stayed on same pace from 3f out until weakened inside final furlong, 5th of 14, 11l behind Recession Proof (11-0) at Southwell 2m Nat Hunt Flat (4yo+) (AWT) (4) std in Dec.
Palomar (USA) 9-1 (10-5) Held up towards rear, headway 3 out, ridden and effort next, stayed on to chase winner briefly flat, no extra towards finish, 3rd of 19, 2 1/2l behind James De Vassy (11-2) at Kempton 2m 5f hcp hdl (2) gs in Jan.
Zanir (FR) 16-1 (11-7) In touch, headway 3 out, effort next, one pace when switched right approaching last, no impression flat, 4th of 16, 9l behind Ski Sunday (11-11) at Kempton 2m hcp hdl 0-135 (3) gs in Jan.
Recession Proof (FR) 7-2 (11-0) Took keen hold, made virtually all, ridden over 1f out, stayed on well, won at Southwell 2m Nat Hunt Flat (4yo+) (AWT) (4) std in Dec beating Bivouac (11-0) by 2 1/2l, 14 ran.
Sweet My Lord (FR) 4-9fav (11-5) Soon led and disputed, jumped well, led 6 out, asserted from before the last, stayed on well, won at Limerick 2m 3f hdl sft in Dec beating Wilde Wit Pleasure (11-11) by 2 1/2l, 7 ran.
Rebel Dancer (FR) 16-1 (10-4) Held up in rear, headway before 2 out, stayed on to 2nd before last, no impression on winner, 2nd of 12, 2 1/4l behind Tocca Ferro (10-13) at Newbury 2m Listed hcap hdle (1) gs in Nov.