This looks quite competitive and it’s difficult to rule out any of the seven declared runners. Shanroe Santos was biting off more than he could chew last time at Sandown but only found one too good in two previous runs in this grade. Chidswell was just beaten at Kelso last month and was also second at Newcastle on his reappearance when Never Up was pulled up. Sue Smith’s runner has done better at Sandown and Sedgefield since, however, and is only 2lb higher than when successful over shorter here in the autumn. Newtown Lad looked to be approaching peak fitness when only beaten a length at Newcastle and Point The Way ran well for a long way in last month’s North Yorkshire Grand National. BAKO DE LA SAULAIE was only headed close home last time at Doncaster. He’s gone up 6lb since but that was only his second run over fences so there should be more to come.
Chidswell (IRE) 2-1fav (11-6) Chased leaders, 3rd and one pace when hit 4 out, 2nd next, led narrowly 2 out, joined and not fluent last, headed final strides, 2nd of 8, nk behind Bright Prospect (10-2) at Kelso 2m 7f hcp (3) sft in Jan.
Shanroe Santos (IRE) 9-1 (10-7) Always towards rear, mistake 12th, tailed off 18th, pulled up soon after, at Sandown 3m hcp (2) sft in Feb.
Un Guet Apens (FR) 13-8fav (11-11) Led, ridden and headed last, kept on and always held, 2nd of 5, 5l behind Craig Star (12-1) at Kelso 2m 2f hcp (4) hvy in Jan.
Newtown Lad (IRE) 4-1 (11-6) Led, headed before 3rd, led again before 5th, ridden and headed run-in, kept on, 2nd of 6, 1l behind De Vous A Moi (11-12) at Newcastle 2m 7f hcp (3) sft in Jan.
Bako De La Saulaie (FR) 9-2 (11-11) In touch, soon close up, left in lead 6 out, pressed from 3 out, kept on and headed towards finish, 2nd of 11, 1/2l behind Shanroe In Milan (11-11) at Doncaster 3m hcp (4) sft in Jan.
Point The Way (IRE) 13-2 (11-0) Tracked leaders, one pace in 3rd from after 2 out, 3rd of 9, 17 1/4l behind I Just Know (11-10) at Catterick 3m 6f hcp (3) sft in Jan.
Never Up (GER) 7-4fav (11-1) Led, ridden and headed before last, kept on and well held by winner, 2nd of 5, 7l behind Cash Again (10-4) at Sedgefield 2m 3f hcp (3) sft in Jan.