Previous form over the trip is usually a plus in this and stamina will be at even more of a premium this year. Chef Des Obeaux has certainly improved for the step up in distance but was beaten comprehensively by stablemate SANTINI on his hurdling debut over 2m4f at Newbury and the latter went on to beat Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle runner-up Black Op here over 2m5f when he certainly wasn’t stopping up the hill. Nicky Henderson also runs Mr Whipped, who beat Paisley Park at Warwick before surrendering his unbeaten record at Musselburgh, and the unexposed Ok Corral. Calett Mad is a dour stayer and Poetic Rhythm won an epic duel with Mulcahys Hill in the Challow Hurdle at Newbury and that pair have nothing to fear from Kilbricken Storm on that run. Enniscoffey Oscar stayed on well to land a Grade 2 when stepped up to 3m at Doncaster and the home team looks stronger this year than the Irish contingent, of which Limerick and Clonmel winner Chris's Dream may be the pick ahead of Ballyward and Tower Bridge.
Ballyward (IRE) 9-10fav (11-12) Prominent early, chased leader from 1st, challenged 4 out, disputed travelling best entering straight, narrow lead before 2 out, mistake 2 out, soon ridden and strongly pressed, kept on well under pressure run-in, all out, won at Naas 2m 3f mdn Soft - Heavy in Jan beating As You Were (11-12) by 1/2l, 15 ran.
Beyond The Law (IRE) 7-2 (11-10) Led, slight mistake 3 out, headed next, pushed along and no impression on winner approaching last, no extra, 4th of 8, 22 3/4l behind Dortmund Park (11-2) at Thurles 2m 6f hvy in Jan.
Calett Mad (FR) 5-1 (11-8) Held up in rear, headway before 3 out, driven to chase leaders next, led narrowly last, ridden and stayed on well flat, won at Musselburgh 3m 2f hcp (2) sft in Feb beating Cresswell Legend (11-1) by 2l, 11 ran.
Chef Des Obeaux (FR) 13-8fav (11-0) Tracked leaders, led after 4 out, clear before last, kept on strongly, won at Haydock 2m 7f (1) hvy in Feb beating Uppertown Prince (11-0) by 15l, 8 ran.
Chris's Dream (IRE) 4-1 (11-2) Chased leader, disputed 1st and led 2nd, clear from 3rd, 8-length advantage halfway, extended advantage 5 out, in command and asserted closing stages, not extended, won at Clonmel 3m (1) hvy in Feb beating Carrigeen Acebo (10-9) by dist, 6 ran.
Crucial Role 11-8fav (11-9) Held up behind leaders, went 3rd before 3rd, chased winner after 3 out, hard ridden approaching last, 1 length down and carried right flat, no impression towards finish, 2nd of 9, 2 3/4l behind King Uther (10-5) at Warwick 3m 2f hcp (3) hvy in Jan.
Dortmund Park (FR) 5-2 (11-8) Chased leaders, not fluent 3 out, closed up travelling smoothly approaching straight, pushed along approaching last and briefly on terms, soon headed and one pace, 4th of 7, 6 1/4l behind Tower Bridge (11-8) at Leopardstown 2m 6f (1) sft in Feb.
Enniscoffey Oscar (IRE) 9-2 (10-12) Held up mid-division, headway before 3 out, challenged 2 out, carried left run-in, kept on gamely to lead post, won at Doncaster 3m (1) sft in Jan beating Shannon Bridge (10-12) by shd, 8 ran.
Fabulous Saga (FR) 7-4fav (11-10) Led, went on after 3rd and soon clear, reduced lead from before straight and headed approaching last, weakened, last of 7, 23 1/2l behind Tower Bridge (11-8) at Leopardstown 2m 6f (1) sft in Feb.
Kilbricken Storm (IRE) 11-4 (11-7) Raced wide, held up in last pair, headway tracking leading pair 3rd, 2nd after 4 out, taken wide in straight, no impression when lost 2nd 3 out, one pace, no chance with leading duo, 3rd of 6, 23 1/4l behind Poetic Rhythm (11-7) at Newbury 2m 5f (1) hvy in Dec.
Mr Whipped (IRE) 4-5fav (11-8) Tracked leaders, pushed along after 4 out, went 2nd before next, ridden between last 2, kept on same pace, held flat, 2nd of 6, 2 1/4l behind Red River (11-5) at Musselburgh 3m (2) sft in Feb.
Mulcahys Hill (IRE) 11-4fav (11-5) Prominent, ridden and effort after 2 out, well held before last, stayed on into modest 4th flat, 4th of 9, 31 1/2l behind Santini (11-5) at Cheltenham 2m 4f (1) hvy in Jan.
Ok Corral (IRE) Evensfav (11-10) Tracked leaders on outside and always going well, 2nd soon after 3 out, led approaching next, shaken up and 2 lengths ahead last, pushed readily clear run-in, won at Kempton 2m 5f (4) sft in Feb beating Run To Milan (11-10) by 8l, 12 ran.
Paisley Park (IRE) 11-8fav (11-5) Tracked leaders in 4th, chased winner from 3 out, every chance before last, kept on and held towards finish, 2nd of 7, 1 1/4l behind Gowiththeflow (10-12) at Doncaster 2m 5f (4) gs in Feb.
Poetic Rhythm (IRE) 15-8fav (11-7) Tracked leaders, hit 4 out, 3rd after 4 out, kept to inside in straight, went 2nd 3 out, challenged last, led run-in, stayed on gamely near finish, all out, won at Newbury 2m 5f (1) hvy in Dec beating Mulcahys Hill (11-7) by shd, 6 ran.
Real Steel (FR) 14-1 (11-9) Led early, prominent, led again after 3rd, hit 5th, joined before 2 out, soon headed and one pace straight, 5th of 11, 13l behind Samcro (11-10) at Leopardstown 2m (1) sft in Feb.
Robin Waters (FR) 4-9fav (10-12) Tracked leaders, went 2nd before 5 out, switched left to lead last, soon clear, readily`, won at Wetherby 2m 5f (4) hvy in Feb beating Coningsby (10-12) by 11l, 4 ran.
Santini 4-1 (11-5) Mid-division, tracked leaders 3 out, went 2nd after next, ridden after last, stayed on well to lead closing stages, won at Cheltenham 2m 4f (1) hvy in Jan beating Black Op (11-5) by 3/4l, 9 ran.
Talkischeap (IRE) 11-1 (11-0) Held up in last pair, smooth headway tracking leaders before 3 out, switched left to challenge leader in 2nd between last 2, led last, clear run-in, idled in closing stages, ridden out, won at Newbury 3m hcp (2) sft in Feb beating King Uther (10-4) by 2 1/4l, 8 ran.
Tower Bridge (IRE) 25-1 (11-8) Towards rear, not fluent 1st, slight mistake 3 out, pushed along to close approaching straight, headway on outer to challenge from before last, stayed on well run-in to lead near line, won at Leopardstown 2m 6f (1) sft in Feb beating Jetz (11-10) by hd, 7 ran.