JUNIOR's presence means the bottom three are out of the handicap, though all are ridden by claimers and have a recent run under their belts unlike David Pipe's 2011 Kim Muir winner who will no doubt have another crack at the Grand National in the spring. He's won following a break in the past and had today's main rival Benny Be Good a long way behind when beaten a short-head by Ikorodu Road in the Grimthorpe at Doncaster in March, though the latter arrives on the back of a cracking victory under a big weight over the C&D. The remaining trio will need to step up a gear but Rich Lord can do so and will be particularly at home in the testing conditions.
Junior 14-1 (11-12) Behind, pushed along and reminders after 9th, tailed off 18th, soon pulled up, in a race won by Merigo (10-2) at Ayr 4m hcp chs G3 (1) gd in Apr, 24 ran.
Benny Be Good 7-1 (11-12) Held up behind in touch, blundered 12th, steady headway 4 out, 7 lengths down in 4th 2 out, driven and ran on well flat to lead near finish, won at Newcastle 3m hcp chs 0-150 (2) gs in Oct beating Allanard (9-11) by 1 1/2l, 8 ran.
Rich Lord 16-1 (10-12) Held up towards rear, mistakes 10th and 3 out, headway 2 out, went 3rd before last, stayed on, not able to challenge, 3rd of 9, 2 1/2l behind Buck Mulligan (11-6) at Sedgefield 2m 4f hcp chs 0-140 (3) gs in Nov.
Bescot Springs (IRE) 18-1 (10-5) Held up towards rear, steady headway approaching 3 out, went modest 3rd before 2 out, no chance with leading duo, lost 3rd final 50 yards, 4th of 14, 5l behind Swing Bill (11-4) at Cheltenham 3m am hcp chs 0-140 (3) gs in Nov.
Rolecarr (IRE) 8-1 (11-4) Tracked leaders in 4th, ridden before last, plugged on to take 3rd place towards finish, 3rd of 9, 15l behind Harouet (11-3) at Carlisle 3m 2f hcp chs 0-135 (3) hvy in Nov.