Captain Conan is flying the flag for his yard after the withdrawal of Sprinter Sacre. He is a classy performer in his own right and won three times in Grade 1 company as a novice, beating Sire De Grugy over this trip at Cheltenham just over a year ago. But he ended the campaign racing over longer trips and has been entered over 3m this term so may struggle for pace here on his reappearance. Sire De Grugy won easily on his comeback at Chepstow but was then beaten in a Listed handicap at Cheltenham. That was a disappointing effort, though he still finished ahead of Oiseau de Nuit, Tataniano, Mad Moose and His Excellency. SOMERSBY won the Haldon Gold Cup at Exeter last month with the top-class Cue Card back in third. He consistently holds his own at this elevated level and can win a first Grade 1 in almost two years here as Kauto Stone needs further and Viva Colonia may be out of his depth.
Captain Conan (FR) 6-5fav (11-4) Tracked leader, led 3 out, clear before last, ran on strongly, won at Aintree 2m 4f nov chs G1 (1) gd in Apr beating Tap Night (11-4) by 3 1/2l, 7 ran.
His Excellency (IRE) 11-1 (11-3) Held up, closed 4 out, ridden and weakened from next, last of 7, 46l behind Kid Cassidy (11-0) at Cheltenham 2m lst chs (1) gd in Nov.
Kauto Stone (FR) 6-1 (11-10) Held up in rear, improved into 4th 8 out, pushed along in 5th 4 out, left 4th, no extra in 5th next, kept on one pace, 5th of 6, 28l behind Roi Du Mee (11-10) at Down Royal 3m chs G1 (1) sft in Nov.
Mad Moose (IRE) 25-1 (11-0) Very reluctant to race and lost many lengths, always tailed off, passed one rival flat, 6th of 7, 37l behind Kid Cassidy (11-0) at Cheltenham 2m lst chs (1) gd in Nov.
Oiseau de Nuit (FR) 12-1 (11-6) Prominent, went 2nd 3rd until 8th, driven after 3 out, 4th and one pace 2 out, 4th of 7, 13l behind Kid Cassidy (11-0) at Cheltenham 2m lst chs (1) gd in Nov.
Sire De Grugy (FR) 5-6fav (11-10) Tracked leaders, stumbled 4th, not fluent 6th, went 2nd 8th, led 2 out, edged right flat, headed 100 yards out, no extra, 2nd of 7, 3 1/2l behind Kid Cassidy (11-0) at Cheltenham 2m lst chs (1) gd in Nov.
Somersby (IRE) 9-2 (10-7) Tracked leaders, not much room and switched left before 4 out, challenged 2 out, ridden to lead last, stayed on under pressure flat, just held on, won at Exeter 2m 1f hcp chs Grade 2 (1) gs in Nov beating Module (10-4) by hd, 6 ran.
Tataniano (FR) 25-1 (11-0) Tracked leader until 3rd, outpaced and no impression from 3 out, mistake last, 5th of 7, 24l behind Kid Cassidy (11-0) at Cheltenham 2m lst chs (1) gd in Nov.
Viva Colonia (IRE) 13-2 (11-5) Mistake 1st, held up in rear, good headway 9th, went 3rd before 3 out until 2 out, driven and keeping on same pace in 4th when switched left before last, weakened flat, 6th of 7, 8l behind Alasi (11-0) at Ascot 2m 1f hcp chs (2) gs in Nov.