mistake 1st, patiently ridden in rear, not fluent 9th, hit 11th, steady headway tracking leaders 15th, went 2nd 4 out until 2 out, kept on same pace, went 2nd again last, no chance with winner
The threat of Storm Dennis could have a significant impact on this handicap with four of the eight runners holding alternative engagements. Jepeck is one of those but Anthony Honeyball also runs Ascot specialist REGAL ENCORE, who came right back to his best over course and distance in December and is still potentially well treated despite a 4lb rise. Domaine De L'Isle is a fast-improving young chaser who will make a bold bid to complete the four-timer while Valtor was more like his old self when third at Taunton. Captain Drake justified favouritism at Exeter but this is a big step up in class.
Ballyoptic (IRE) 9-1 (11-12) Chased leaders on outside, lost place before 6th, closed 8th, mistake 10th, struggling 14th (foinavon), tailed off from 3 out, 11th of 18, dist behind Walk In The Mill (10-8) at Aintree 3m 2f hcp (1) sft in Dec.
Valtor (FR) 5-1 (11-0) Held up tracking leaders on inside, closer in 3rd at 15th, hit 17th, went 2nd next until the last, no extra in 3rd, 3rd of 6, 7l behind Yala Enki (11-0) at Taunton 3m 4f (2) hvy in Jan.
Domaine De L'Isle (FR) 5-1 (10-13) Held up, progress 9th, pushed along approaching 3 out, ridden after 2 out, stayed on under pressure to lead close home, won at Ascot 2m 5f hcp (2) hvy in Jan beating Bennys King (11-4) by nk, 8 ran.
Regal Encore (IRE) 16-1 (10-7) Raced wide, chased leaders, went 2nd 2 out, led narrowly last, driven out, won at Ascot 3m hcp lst (1) hvy in Dec beating Acting Lass (10-12) by 3/4l, 10 ran.
Red Indian 5-1jfav (10-11) Close up, ridden to chase winner 6 out, weakened approaching last, 5th of 10, 14 1/2l behind Vintage Clouds (10-11) at Haydock 3m 2f hcp (1) hvy in Jan.
Captain Drake (IRE) 7-2fav (11-9) Pressed leader, led narrowly 4 out, in command 2 out, clear last (limited comments due to reduced visibility), won at Exeter 3m hcp (3) sft in Jan beating The Kings Writ (12-0) by 5 1/2l, 10 ran.
Like The Sound (FR) 33-1 (11-8) Held up towards rear, headway 8th, led 4 out, headed before last, no impression on winner flat, lost 2nd towards finish, 3rd of 10, 5 1/4l behind Doing Fine (10-7) at Cheltenham 3m 2f hcp (2) sft in Jan.
Jepeck (IRE) 3-1fav (11-0) Chased leaders, went 2nd approaching 8th, led before 2 out, ridden clear when hampered by loose horse before last, hung right and strongly pressed run-in, stayed on gamely, all out, won at Sandown 3m hcp (2) sft in Jan beating Regal Flow (10-9) by shd, 14 ran.