Despite the small turnout, this is a fascinating and potentially-informative opener. Paul Nicholls saddled up-and-coming stayer Sam Winner to win last year's renewal and his Vivaldi Collonges looks a similar type. He's a half-brother to two winning chasers and gets weight from his three rivals so can't be ignored. KINGS PALACE beat Sausalito Sunrise by four lengths here last month. The runner-up is 7lb better off today but David Pipe's exciting novice, already a leading fancy for the RSA Chase, looked to have plenty in hand and can extend his unbeaten record over fences. Return Spring beat a subsequent winner at Exeter last time and often ran well here over hurdles but possibly lacks the class of some of the others.
Kings Palace (IRE) 11-8fav (11-0) Tracked leader, led 8th, driven and stayed on well flat, won at Cheltenham 3m nov chs (2) sft in Nov beating Sausalito Sunrise (11-5) by 4l, 5 ran.
Return Spring (IRE) 4-1 (11-0) Tracked leaders, headway into 2nd before 4 out, soon challenged, every chance when not fluent 2 out, ridden between last 2, stayed on to lead narrowly near finish, won at Exeter 3m nov chs (3) hvy in Nov beating Highland Retreat (10-7) by nk, 4 ran.
Sausalito Sunrise (IRE) 11-4 (11-5) Held up in touch in rear, closed from 9th, went 2nd when not fluent 3 out, not fluent last 2, stayed on but unable to challenge, 2nd of 5, 4l behind Kings Palace (11-0) at Cheltenham 3m nov chs (2) sft in Nov.
Vivaldi Collonges (FR) 4-1 (11-8) Prominent, led 6th, headed after next, mistake 4 out, no extra when hit last, 4th of 12, 15l behind Katkeau (10-7) at Cheltenham 3m 1f Listed hcp hdl (1) sft in Nov.