There's no Celestial Halo this year but Paul Nicholls is still represented by three useful hurdlers. Zarkandar won the Grade 3 Betfair Hurdle at Newbury in February and took on the best at Cheltenham and Aintree thereafter but Ruby Walsh has deserted him in favour of PROSPECT WELLS. The latter ran in all the top novice events last season and was rarely disgraced, being beaten less than three lengths when fifth at Cheltenham and then finishing third at Aintree. He may well have been let in lightly here and is preferred to the erratic Escort'men and four-year-olds Balder Succes and Baby Mix. Local Hero has won a couple of valuable handicaps over the summer at Market Rasen and has form at this level so can't be ignored.
Zarkandar (IRE) 2-1fav (11-7) Tracked leaders until approaching 2nd, raced in handy 4th until fell 6th, in a race won by Oscar Whisky (11-7) at Aintree 2m 4f hdl G1 (1) gd in Apr, 5 ran.
Local Hero (GER) 9-2 (11-2) Held up mid-division, headway 3 out, ridden before 2 out, chased leader last, kept on to lead post, all out, won at Market Rasen 2m 1f Listed hcp hdl (1) gd in Sep beating Laudatory (10-4) by ns, 15 ran.
Balder Succes (FR) 9-4fav (11-0) Bad mistake and unseated rider 1st, in a race won by Hisaabaat (11-0) at Punchestown 2m 4yo hdl Grade 1 (1) hvy in Apr, 13 ran.
Prospect Wells (FR) 4-1 (11-4) Held up mid-division, headway to chase leaders before 3 out, ridden after last, one pace and no impression on leading pair, 3rd of 12, 11l behind Darlan (11-4) at Aintree 2m nov hdl G2 (1) gd in Apr.
Escort'men (FR) 8-11fav (11-0) Led, clear 3rd, reduced lead when fell 3 out, in a race won by Sublime Talent (10-11) at Fakenham 2m beg chase (4) gf in May, 5 ran.
Baby Mix (FR) 9-4 (11-6) Tracked leader, led 5th, soon headed, awkward 3 out, ridden next, weakened last, 3rd of 5, 22l behind Dodging Bullets (10-12) at Cheltenham 2m 4yo hdl (2) gs in Oct.
Topolski (IRE) 8-1 (11-8) Held up in last pair, ridden 5th, well beaten 3 out, 6th of 7, 24l behind Dream Esteem (11-2) at Newbury 2m hcp hdl 0-145 (2) gs in Mar.