SULPIUS was predictably no match for Simonsig at Ascot but is much improved over fences this season and has won three of his last five. Bob Buckler's charge may well be the one here getting 18lb from The Big Freeze, though Michael Byrne takes 3lb off Tim Vaughan's novice who was taking on better company at Cheltenham last time. Russian Song was pulled up behind The Big Freeze at Exeter but did better at Taunton next time and makes more appeal than Sapphire Rouge, though Time Do's third over a shorter trip here last time has worked out well.
The Big Freeze (IRE) 8-1 (10-11) Mid-division, headway 12th, went 3rd before 3 out, soon ridden, no chance with front pair before next, 3rd of 12, 13l behind Plein Pouvoir (11-4) at Cheltenham 2m 5f cond hcp chs (4yo+) (3) sft in Dec.
Time Do (FR) 12-1 (11-12) Led, headed 3rd, chased winner until mistake and lost 2nd 4 out, chased leading pair until blundered 2 out, rallied to 3rd again last, stayed on same pace flat, not quite pace to challenge, 3rd of 8, 2 1/4l behind Handtheprizeover (11-9) at Wincanton 2m 5f cond hcp chs 0-105 (4) sft in Dec.
Sapphire Rouge (IRE) 17-2 (10-3) Raced wide in touch, ridden along at times, struggling under pressure after 10th, tailed off, 7th of 9, 47l behind Bunglasha Lady (11-4) at Plumpton 3m 1f hcp hdl 0-125 (3) sft in Dec.
Russian Song (IRE) 10-1 (11-5) In touch, joined leaders 6th, led 10th, hard pressed 2 out (usual 3 out), headed last (usual 2 out), soon ridden, kept on and every chance flat, no extra in 3rd towards finish, 3rd of 10, 1l behind Midnight Charmer (9-7) at Taunton 2m 7f nov hcp chs 0-100 (5) hvy in Dec.
Sulpius (GER) 25-1 (11-0) With leader, led 6th, headed 11th, soon outpaced, moderate 2nd, 2nd of 5, 49l behind Simonsig (11-0) at Ascot 2m 3f nov chs Grade 2 (1) hvy in Dec.