LIBERATE was second in a similar contest over C&D in August and is certain to attract support here with McCoy doing the steering. Akbabend, successful twice at Fontwell subsequently, was only a length away in third but is 18lb worse off at the weights today and looks unlikely to reverse the placings. Spirit Is Needed finished tailed off in a handicap at Fakenham last month and will need to do better here if he is to figure, though is still preferred to Tower who has managed just one win in 19 over hurdles and that was a seller.
Akbabend 66-1 (10-4) Prominent, outpaced when mistake 3 out, weakened after next, 11th of 20, 33l behind Action Master (10-6) at Cheltenham 3m hcp hdl (2) gs in Oct.
Strong Soul (IRE) 11-1 (11-12) A bit slow 1st, close up until pulled up lame before 5 out, in a race won by Daffern Seal (11-12) at Galway 2m 6f beg chase gd in Jul '11, 18 ran.
Liberate 3-1 (11-5) Mid-division, sprawled on landing 2nd, headway approaching 6th, went 2nd 2 out, about to challenge when jumped slowly last, no impression after, 2nd of 8, 2 1/2l behind Lion On The Prowl (11-6) at Southwell 3m clm hdl (5) gd in Aug.
Spirit Is Needed (IRE) 5-1 (10-4) Close up, lost 6th, ridden 8th, soon weakened, last of 8, well behind El Dancer (11-5) at Fakenham 2m 7f hcp hdl 0-130 (3) gs in Oct.
Tower 7-2 (10-12) Off the pace in last quartet, headway to 4th after 3 out, went 3rd before 2 out, stayed on same pace, 3rd of 10, 13l behind Boomtown (9-7) at Wincanton 2m 6f hcp hdl 0-100 (5) gs in Oct.
Watch The Birdie (IRE) 9-1 (11-3) Towards rear, pushed along before 3 out, soon outpaced, 9th of 11, 25l behind Next Edition (11-5) at Bangor 2m 1f cnd nov hcp hdl (5) gd in Oct.