A small but very select field with four of the entries engaged in the Champion Hurdle and the other, Celestial Halo, in the World Hurdle. Paul Nicholls' charge produced one of his best-ever runs to land a Grade 2 handicap over the C&D in 2009 but is probably better over further nowadays and stablemate SILVINIACO CONTI is the more likely winner. Unbeaten in two runs in France before joining the champion trainer, he was very impressive on his first three starts for new connections and put in his best performance to date when chasing home Menorah and Cue Card in the International Hurdle at Cheltenham. He's probably better over a little further and is heavily penalised but his class can see him through. Mille Chief was mightily impressive when landing a Sandown handicap last month but this is a big step-up in class and Overturn may prove more of a threat as he produced another high-class effort to chase home Binocular in the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton. Ronaldo Des Mottes hasn't yet made his mark at this level but his close second to Get Me Out Of here in last year's Totesport Trophy at Newbury pointed to his development and he can still make progress.
Silviniaco Conti (FR) 5-2 (11-8) Blundered 1st, tracked clear leader, led after 3 out, ridden and headed between last 2, kept on under pressure flat, just held for 2nd near finish, 3rd of 9, 5l behind Menorah (11-4) at Cheltenham 2m 1f hdl G2 (1) gs in Dec.
Celestial Halo (IRE) 9-2 (11-8) Took keen hold, tracked leader, challenged before 4th, led 7th, jumped right 2 out, ridden and headed approaching last, soon held, stayed on one pace, 3rd of 7, 13l behind Oscar Whisky (11-4) at Cheltenham 2m 4f hdl (2) gs in Jan.
Overturn (IRE) 7-1 (11-7) Led, ridden and hard pressed after 3 out, headed next, kept on same pace under pressure aproaching last, no impression flat, 2nd of 6, 4l behind Binocular (11-7) at Kempton 2m hdl G1 (1) gs in Jan.
Mille Chief (FR) 10-3 (11-12) Held up in mid-division, headway 3 out, went 2nd on bit 2 out, led last, shaken up and readily came clear flat, won at Sandown 2m hcp hdl 0-145 (2) hvy in Jan beating Sophies Trophy (10-6) by 6l, 12 ran.
Ronaldo Des Mottes (FR) 10-1 (11-12) Rear of mid-division on outer, still in touch 3 out, no extra approaching straight, 7th of 11, 16l behind Hurricane Fly (11-12) at Punchestown 2m hdl G1 (1) gd in Apr.