It's amazing that Straw Bear, who appears to have been around forever, is only just eligible for the veterans' event but he's never won over fences and his handicap mark owes more to his prowess over timber. He faces stiff competition here with REGAL HEIGHTS getting the vote as Tom George's charge looks ready to win from this sort of mark which has seen him drop 29lb from the days he was chasing home the likes of Denman. Picts Hill completed a hat-trick early in 2009 but has had little racing subsequently. He ran very well for a long way on his seasonal reappearance at Huntingdon in October and looks a threat. Holmwood Legend is another with a decent chance as he likes it around here as he showed yet again with a fine run behind Bugsy's Boy last month.
Straw Bear (USA) 9-4 (11-0) Not always fluent, tracked leading trio, went 2nd 6th, mistake 11th, going well enough before 3 out, ridden found no extra and held from 2 out, 2nd of 5, 6l behind Definity (11-0) at Fontwell 2m 4f beg chase (4) gs in Jan.
Magic Sky (FR) 10-1 (9-12) Held up in rear, took keen hold, blundered and unseated rider 2nd, in a race won by Hey Big Spender (11-12) at Warwick 2m 4f hcp chs (2) gs, 9 ran.
Nikola (FR) 16-1 (10-7) Mid-division, ridden along 8th, soon well behind and pulled up, in a race won by Chance Du Roy (10-9) at Chepstow 2m 3f hcp chs (2) sft in Jan, 11 ran.
Holmwood Legend 6-1 (11-4) In touch in mid-division on outside, closed from 7th, blundered 4 out, chased winner approaching next, blundered 2 out, stayed on flat, 2nd of 9, 1 1/4l behind Bugsy's Boy (10-4) at Wincanton 2m 5f hcp chs 0-130 (3) sft in Jan.
Swing Bill (FR) 15-2 (11-7) Raced in handy 6th, disputing 3rd after 7th, 2nd from after 12th, well held 4th as field came into view final 110 yards, weakened to 5th last strides, 5th of 15, 9l behind Misstree Dancer (11-3) at Newbury 2m 6f nov hcp chs 0-130 (3) gs in Dec.
Regal Heights (IRE) 7-2fav (10-8) Chased leaders, led approaching 8th, headed 4 out, kept on towards finish, always held, 2nd of 10, 3 1/2l behind Crescent Island (11-3) at Wetherby 2m 4f hcp chs 0-150 (2) gs.
Picts Hill 14-1 (11-4) Tracked leader, led 8th, hit and headed 3 out, ridden next, stayed on to chase clear winner flat, lost 2nd near finish, 3rd of 9, 12l behind Songe (11-4) at Huntingdon 2m 4f hcp chs 0-135 (3) gd in Oct.
Ma Yahab 14-1 (11-4) With leader, led 12th to next, chased winner, driven and outpaced after 3 out, kept on same pace and no impression from next, lost 2nd near finish, 3rd of 11, 8l behind Far More Serious (11-12) at Bangor 3m hcp chs 0-130 (3) gs.
Ursis (FR) 9-1 (11-5) Chased leaders, lost place and towards rear when reminders after 7th, mistake 10th, weakened 4 out, tailed off, 5th of 10, 46l behind Polyfast (11-12) at Kempton 2m 4f hcp chs 0-135 (3) gs in Jan.