This race has been dominated by second-season hurdlers but Carter Mckay, Burrows Saint and Deal D'estruval are bidding to give their stable a fourth win in eight years though last year’s winning trainer, Gordon Elliott has the top three in the weights and also Flawless Escape, who has been the subject of ante-post support. In need of the experience when beaten by Burrows Saint at Punchestown, he came up against a well-handicapped horse last time after winning at Leopardstown and remains unexposed. MELROSE BOY ran well behind Wednesday’s Coral Cup second Topofthegame at Sandown last month, despite finding the extended 2m7f a shade too far. Earlier form, including around here, stands up to scrutiny and Harry Fry’s charge should be in the firing-line again having only gone up 2lb. Bryony Frost and James Bowen have been two of the finds of the National Hunt season and partner Brelan D'As and Diese Des Bieffes respectively - the latter may be the pick of the Henderson trio. Coeur de Lion had an unusual prep race for this, winning a staying handicap on Fibresand, and is no forlorn hope.
Blow By Blow (IRE) 7-1 (11-0) Tracked leaders, 3rd after 4 out, headway to lead 2 out, ridden to assert approaching last where left clear, kept on well, won at Thurles 2m 4f (1) sft in Feb beating Gun Digger (11-0) by 14l, 6 ran.
Sire Du Berlais (FR) 13-2 (11-9) Rear of mid-division, some headway after 4 out, went 4th entering straight, pushed along and no impression approaching last, kept on one pace into 2nd run-in, 2nd of 12, 5 1/2l behind Out Of The Loop (10-13) at Fairyhouse 2m 4f hcp sft in Feb.
Flaxen Flare (IRE) 40-1 (10-2) Always towards rear, never a factor, pushed along and no impression before 4 out, behind and pulled up before 3 out, at Gowran Park 3m 1f hcp hvy in Jan.
Dream Berry (FR) 20-1 (10-13) Mid-division, 14th approaching 4th, improved into 7th approaching straight, stayed on well run-in, not quite get to winner, 2nd of 24, 1/2l behind Open Eagle (11-8) at Punchestown 2m 4f hcp Good - Yielding in Apr.
Early Doors (FR) 20-1 (11-9) Held up, 10th after 3rd, no impression approaching straight, 9th of 11, 20 1/2l behind Samcro (11-10) at Leopardstown 2m (1) sft in Feb.
No Hassle Hoff (IRE) 10-1 (11-2) In rear, hampered 3 out, headway before 2 out, ridden and not fluent last, no extra, 3rd of 5, 6 1/4l behind Donna's Diamond (11-2) at Haydock 2m 7f (1) hvy in Feb.
Brelan D'As (FR) 5-1 (10-12) Held up in rear, hit 4th, driven and outpaced when not fluent 4 out, soon beaten, 5th of 6, dist behind Allysson Monterg (10-12) at Exeter 2m 3f (3) hvy in Feb.
Tommy Rapper (IRE) 5-1 (11-1) Held up mid-division, headway before 3 out, led after last, held on towards finish, won at Haydock 2m 7f hcp (2) hvy in Feb beating Theo's Charm (11-3) by nk, 11 ran.
Brillare Momento (IRE) 3-1 (11-12) Led until 2nd, remained prominent, led 3 out, challenged next, kept on well under pressure, won at Towcester 2m 3f hcp (3) sft in Feb beating Red Indian (12-0) by 1 1/4l, 7 ran.
Coeur de Lion 13-8fav (9-7) Behind, pushed along before halfway, headway on outside from over 3f out, led over 1f out, pressed inside final furlong, stayed on well, won at Southwell 2m hcp (3) pol in Feb beating Mixboy (9-12) by 1l, 7 ran.
Carter Mckay 9-2 (11-10) Held up, soon raced in moderate 5th, pushed along to close approaching straight, challenged and every chance last, one pace run-in, 3rd of 7, 2 1/2l behind Tower Bridge (11-8) at Leopardstown 2m 6f (1) sft in Feb.
Delire D'Estruval (FR) 11-8 (11-8) Made all, clear before last, easily, won at Towcester 2m (4) sft in Feb beating Harefield (11-8) by 9l, 7 ran.
Mr Big Shot (IRE) 1-8fav (11-6) Tracked leader, led before 3 out, soon clear, kept on strongly, won at Carlisle 2m 1f (4) gs in Apr beating Skipthescales (11-0) by 17l, 11 ran.
Arthington 11-1 (11-10) Tracked leading pair, pushed along between last 2, left 2nd and slightly hampered last, stayed on same pace run-in, 2nd of 6, 1 1/2l behind Countister (10-13) at Sandown 2m (3) sft in Feb.
Flawless Escape 7-1 (10-4) Tracked leaders, 3rd approaching 8th, 2nd approaching 2 out, slight mistake last and one pace run-in, 3rd of 16, 3 3/4l behind Total Recall (10-4) at Leopardstown 3m hcp sft in Feb.
Diese Des Bieffes (FR) 5-1fav (11-2) Held up towards rear, headway approaching 3 out, ridden and outpaced before next, 5th and one pace last, 5th of 16, 3 3/4l behind William Henry (11-12) at Kempton 2m 5f hcp lst (1) sft in Jan.
Lough Derg Spirit (IRE) 20-1 (11-2) Chased leaders, pushed along before 3 out, ridden and outpaced next, plugged on run-in, 6th of 24, 23 3/4l behind Kalashnikov (11-5) at Newbury 2m hcp (1) sft in Feb.
Burrows Saint (FR) 7-2 (11-2) Tracked leaders, 5th halfway, headway approaching 3 out, 3rd and slight mistake 2 out, no extra approaching last, kept on one pace run-in, 2nd of 8, 16l behind Dortmund Park (11-2) at Thurles 2m 6f hvy in Jan.
Melrose Boy (FR) 7-1 (11-0) Held up towards rear, headway on outside into mid-division before 7th, chasing leaders when hit 3 out, 2nd soon after next, held when lost 2nd last, stayed on same pace run-in, 3rd of 17, 3 1/2l behind Topofthegame (11-7) at Sandown 2m 7f hcp (1) sft in Feb.
Deal D'Estruval (FR) 9-1 (10-0) A little keen early, soon mid-division, ridden and headway to chase winner last, challenged and every chance run-in, kept on without matching winner closing stages, 2nd of 28, 1 1/4l behind Off You Go (9-10) at Leopardstown 2m hcp sft in Feb.
Poppy Kay 25-1 (11-1) Mid-division, headway on inside approaching 3 out, weakening when mistake next, eased, tailed off, 19th of 24, dist behind Kalashnikov (11-5) at Newbury 2m hcp (1) sft in Feb.
Discorama (FR) 14-1 (11-3) Held up in 6th, headway after 4 out, went 2nd and mistake 3 out, soon ridden, 4th 2 out, weakened, mistake at last, 7th of 8, 11 1/2l behind Hardline (11-7) at Naas 2m (1) sft in Feb.
Brave Eagle (IRE) 11-4 (11-2) Tracked leader until 2nd next, hit 5th and next, soon in rear, reminders and struggling 4 out, still last and plenty to do when switched left to avoid faller 2 out, went 3rd and hit last, stayed on strongly to lead near finish, won at Newbury 2m 5f hcp (2) hvy in Dec beating Theligny (11-4) by 1/2l, 7 ran.
Amour de Nuit (IRE) 9-5 (11-12) Took keen hold, tracked leaders, went 2nd before 4th, dived at 2 out, 3rd and beaten from last, no extra, 3rd of 5, 5 3/4l behind Dear Sire (11-11) at Musselburgh 2m hcp (2) gs in Feb.