in touch, driven to chase leaders after 2 out, not clear run and switched inside before last, soon every chance, ridden and hung left flat, no impression with front pair towards finish
No favourite has won this in 16 years and there has only been one winner in 10 years which has started shorter than 12/1. A few of these have been chasing including Traffic Fluide, who was alongside winner Riders Onthe Storm when falling at the last in the Ascot Chase. Ballymoy may also benefit from a return to the smaller obstacles and is only a pound higher than when successful in a Grade 3 at Ascot last season. Willie Mullins saddles an incredible seven runners but Paul Townend rides the unexposed five-year-old Franco De Port and he may be the pick ahead of Bachasson having chased home useful stablemate Stormy Ireland in a Grade 3 at Naas in January. Gordon Elliott has three entries, not including reserve Everybreathyoutake, and Nicky Henderson is also triple-handed. Burrows Edge and the mare Dame De Compagnie were both winners last time while Birchdale still has untapped potential. CHAMPAGNE WELL has twice finished second over 3m since winning over course and distance in October. He runs in only his second handicap and could be overpriced on ground that will suit while Protektorat has really come into his own since upped in trip. The latter’s win over 2m4f here on New Year’s Day has been franked and he’s since finished third in a Grade 2 on the track when given plenty to do, though has been raised a further 5lb. Thosedaysaregone is also worth a second look as his trainer knows the time of day in handicaps like this.
Kilfenora (IRE) 9-4fav (11-3) Tracked leaders, mistake 2nd, effort straight, no impression from 2 out, kept on run-in into 4th near line, 4th of 8, 14l behind Cracking Smart (11-3) at Navan 2m 5f (1) hvy in Feb.
Cracking Smart (FR) 16-1 (11-3) Tracked leaders, slight mistake 7th, headway and slight mistake 3 out, soon closed travelling smoothly, led approaching 2 out, soon went on, stayed on well run-in, comfortably, won at Navan 2m 5f (1) hvy in Feb beating Penhill (11-3) by 4l, 8 ran.
Eglantine Du Seuil (FR) 20-1 (11-1) Towards rear, 15th on outer bypassing 2 out, headway entering straight, ridden to dispute lead at last, headed after last, no extra inside final furlong, 4th of 22, 1 1/2l behind Thosedaysaregone (10-1) at Leopardstown 2m hcp Yielding in Feb.
Bachasson (FR) 11-1 (11-3) Chased leaders, soon raced in 5th, closed travelling smoothly from 3 out, 3rd 2 out, soon no impression and one pace, 3rd of 8, 9l behind Cracking Smart (11-3) at Navan 2m 5f (1) hvy in Feb.
Ballymoy (IRE) 9-2 (11-10) Held up in touch, ridden and weakened before 2 out, 5th of 8, 7 3/4l behind Thomas Darby (11-12) at Ascot 2m 3f hcp (1) hvy in Jan.
Franco De Port (FR) 7-1 (11-3) Tracked leaders in moderate 4th, not fluent 2nd, closer 4th entering straight, ridden in 3rd 2 out, soon no impression on leaders, went moderate 2nd after last, kept on without threatening winner, 2nd of 7, 6l behind Stormy Ireland (11-1) at Naas 2m (1) Yielding - Soft in Jan.
Top Moon (FR) 25-1 (11-3) Mid-division on inner, no impression from 3 out, never a factor, 13th of 22, 13 1/4l behind Thosedaysaregone (10-1) at Leopardstown 2m hcp Yielding in Feb.
Birchdale (IRE) 13-8 (11-1) Close up in 4th, went poor 3rd 5 out, plugged on, 3rd of 4, 32l behind Angels Breath (11-1) at Ascot 2m 3f (3) sft in Nov.
Canardier (FR) 8-1 (11-12) Waited with, mistake 3rd and not fluent jumping after, 9th from 4th, never a factor, 7th of 10, dist behind Easy Game (11-12) at Leopardstown 2m 5f Yielding in Dec.
Coko Beach (FR) 7-1 (11-6) Settled behind leaders, moderate 6th halfway, closer 4 out, ridden and no extra before straight, weakened 3 out, 11th of 12, dist behind Kilfenora (11-10) at Navan 2m 4f hcp Soft - Heavy in Jan.
Sayo 66-1 (11-9) Rear of mid-division, 14th 3 out, no impression from next, 12th of 28, 32 1/2l behind Treacysenniscorthy (10-6) at Leopardstown 3m hcp Yielding in Feb.
Stratum 3-1 (11-8) Held up in 6th, went 5th 4 out, 3rd when left moderate 2nd 3 out, ridden in moderate 2nd next, no impression on winner before last, dropped to 4th after last, no impression, 4th of 7, 8 1/2l behind Burrows Saint (11-4) at Punchestown 2m 4f Good - Yielding in Dec.
Protektorat (FR) 13-2 (11-10) Held up towards rear, took keen hold, not much room and stumbled 3rd, headway 2 out, went 3rd flat, kept on, 3rd of 8, 4 1/2l behind Harry Senior (11-5) at Cheltenham 2m 4f (1) sft in Jan.
Black Tears 4-1 (10-11) Held up in 4th, not fluent 6th, pushed along 3 out, ridden in 3rd 2 out, 3rd at last, kept on without threatening winner to go 2nd close home, 2nd of 5, 2 1/2l behind Elfile (11-3) at Punchestown 2m 4f (1) hvy in Feb.
The Mighty Don (IRE) 8-11fav (11-0) Prominent, led 3rd, 3 lengths clear when fell last, at Market Rasen 3m (4) gs in Feb.
Traffic Fluide (FR) 40-1 (11-7) Held up last, outpaced 11th, headway on outside before 2 out, went 2nd 2 out, keeping on hanging right and every chance when fell heavily last, at Ascot 2m 5f (1) sft in Feb.
Chesterfield (IRE) 40-1 (11-3) Held up, last, ridden in modest 4th after 3 out, dropped to last and mistake 2 out, plugged on, 4th of 5, 24l behind William Henry (11-7) at Fontwell 2m 3f (1) sft in Feb.
Alfa Mix 6-1 (11-0) Settled behind leaders, 4th halfway, closer 4 out, closed up behind leaders 3 out, 2nd travelling well before 2 out, slight mistake 2 out, ridden before last, kept on well without reaching winner run-in, 2nd of 12, 1 1/4l behind Kilfenora (11-10) at Navan 2m 4f hcp Soft - Heavy in Jan.
Champagne Well (IRE) 7-4jfav (11-1) Waited with in rear, outpaced when hit 4 out, rallied into 2nd on outside before next, every chance last, weakened run-in, finished tired, 2nd of 5, 17l behind Ramses De Teillee (11-1) at Doncaster 3m (1) gs in Jan.
Dame De Compagnie (FR) 2-1fav (11-7) Mid-division, steady headway from 3 out, challenged last, led flat, went clear, stayed on well, comfortably, won at Cheltenham 2m 4f hcp (2) sft in Dec beating Indefatigable (11-12) by 4 1/2l, 16 ran.
Honest Vic (IRE) 10-1 (11-9) Chased leaders, went 2nd before 4 out, led before 2 out, stayed on well from last, won at Kempton 2m 5f hcp (3) sft in Dec beating Star Of Lanka (11-9) by 2 3/4l, 16 ran.
Thosedaysaregone (IRE) 7-1 (10-1) Rear of mid-division, headway on outer entering straight, ridden in 5th at last, stayed on strongly run-in to lead last strides, won at Leopardstown 2m hcp Yielding in Feb beating Golden Jewel (9-11) by 1 1/4l, 22 ran.
Golan Fortune (IRE) 14-1 (11-1) Held up towards rear, good headway on outside chasing leaders before 3 out, hung right and weakened before next, pulled up soon after, at Sandown 2m 7f hcp (1) hvy in Feb.
Burrows Edge (FR) 5-1 (11-4) Held up in last pair, still plenty to do when taken to wide outside before 2 out, closed to track leaders 2 out, over 2 lengths 3rd and staying on when left in clear lead at the last, won at Kempton 2m 5f hcp lst (1) gs in Jan beating Vive Le Roi (11-9) by 9l, 13 ran.
Fagan 33-1 (10-13) Held up in rear, headway before 3 out, soon weakened, 7th of 10, 20l behind Welsh Saint (10-7) at Haydock 3m hcp (2) hvy in Feb.
Mister Blue Sky (IRE) 20-1 (11-3) Mid-division, bad mistake 4th, 11th bypassing 2 out, no impression, 14th of 22, 14 1/4l behind Thosedaysaregone (10-1) at Leopardstown 2m hcp Yielding in Feb.