ROB CONTI has improved with experience this year, winning at Bangor in August. He may well have beaten Sizing Santiago at Newton Abbot last time had Richard Johnson not dropped his whip and, though 6lb higher now, can gain compensation here. Niceonefrankie should go well as he won at Leicester and Newbury at the start of the year before finding the competition too hot in a Grade 3 at Cheltenham, but course winner Amaury De Lusignan tries a longer trip and Cootehill and Peachey Moment have rather lost their way lately. Top Smart won easily on his chasing debut and has obvious scope but the handicapper has taken no chances with Seamus Mullins' six-year-old.
Top Smart 5-1 (11-0) Held up towards rear on outside, switched left and headway approaching 8th, led after 3 out, not fluent last, soon well clear, won at Worcester 2m 7f beg chase (4) gd in May beating Indian Daudaie (11-0) by 10l, 10 ran.
Cootehill (IRE) 33-1 (11-9) Mid-division, not much room 2nd, headway 6th, went 2nd 12th, weakened approaching last, 5th of 14, 25l behind Romanesco (10-5) at Fakenham 3m hcp chs 0-140 (3) gs in Oct.
Niceonefrankie 7-1 (10-2) Mid-division, mistake 10th, well beaten 3 out, no impression, 11th of 22, 29l behind Salut Flo (10-10) at Cheltenham 2m 5f hcp chs G3 (1) gd in Mar.
Amaury De Lusignan (IRE) 7-4fav (12-1) Tracked leader, ridden 4 out, no impression on leader and lost 2nd approaching last, 3rd of 5, 11l behind Park Lane (10-3) at Kempton 2m nov hcp chs 0-130 (3) gd in Mar.
Peachey Moment (USA) 22-1 (11-7) Held up in rear, outpaced 4 out, never on terms, 6th of 12, 18l behind Alvarado (11-9) at Wetherby 2m 4f hcp chs 0-135 (3) gs in Oct.
Rob Conti (FR) 4-1 (11-5) Held up in last trio, good headway to 3rd after 4 out, went 2nd after 2 out, shaken up upsides and every chance last, rider dropped whip soon after last, pushed along and held towards finish, 2nd of 8, nk behind Sizing Santiago (11-2) at Newton Abbot 2m 5f hcp chs 0-125 (3) gd in Sep.
Lough Coi (IRE) 66-1 (11-3) Mid-division, driven and headway 4 out, chased leaders 2 out, soon one pace, 4th of 12, 11l behind Global Power (11-3) at Fontwell 2m 4f beg chs (4) sft in Oct.