slowly into stride, soon mid-division on inside, awkward 4th, headway chasing leaders 4 out, keeping on same pace pressing for places when badly hampered by faller after the last, weakened and no chance after
Nicky Henderson and Willie Mullins both have four entries. The former is chasing a hat-trick in this valuable handicap after the victories of William Henry and Dame De Compaigne in the last two years and he also trained the winner in 2010 and 2014. Craigneche went up 12lb after making a winning reappearance in a Grade 3 at Ascot in January but that was his first run in more than a year and only his fourth in total. He beat a good yardstick by seven lengths and there is a possibility that he is a bit better than a handicapper. Monte Cristo and Birchdale also have claims while Paul Townend rides the lightly-raced Koshari of the Mullins quartet. Grand Roi will have his supporters given he’s been campaigned in decent company this season, though he has not proved his stamina over this trip. Sneaky Getaway had an unusual prep race on the Polytrack at Dundalk and is worth a market check and Guard Your Dreams was a respectable sixth in the Betfair Hurdle last month. BOTOX HAS was more than 16 lengths behind Craigneche at Ascot but did meet some trouble in-running and enjoys a big turnaround in the weights. He has two wins and a second to his name around here so gets a tentative vote with Heaven Help Us, Shang Tang, Thomas Darby and Shakem Up’Arry possibly best of the rest.
Thomas Darby (IRE) 12-1 (11-4) Held up in touch in last trio, closer 6th, pushed along chasing leaders after 3 out, ridden to lead briefly before 2 out, no extra in 3rd 2 out, kept on run-in pressing for modest 2nd, 3rd of 7, 2 1/4l behind Mcfabulous (11-3) at Kempton 2m 5f (1) sft in Jan.
Grand Roi (FR) 5-1 (11-10) Prominent in 2nd, under pressure before 2 out, no impression from before last where slight mistake, kept on same pace run-in, 2nd of 5, 4 3/4l behind Bachasson (11-3) at Naas 2m (1) Soft - Heavy in Jan.
Koshari (FR) 10-1 (11-4) Held up towards rear, mistake 3rd, ridden after 2 out, stayed on into 7th last, kept on same pace run-in, 6th of 22, 20 1/2l behind Maze Runner (9-13) at Leopardstown 3m hcp Soft - Heavy in Feb.
Janika (FR) 5-1 (11-12) Held up in rear, headway approaching 7th, pushed along before 2 out, soon weakened, 9th of 12, dist behind Craigneiche (10-6) at Ascot 2m 3f hcp (1) sft in Jan.
Monte Cristo (FR) 25-1 (11-7) Chased leaders on inside, headway to lead before the last, soon quickened clear, stayed on strongly run-in, won at Kempton 2m 5f hcp (3) gs in Dec beating Ecco (11-5) by 7l, 15 ran.
Birchdale (IRE) 11-2 (11-4) Held up in mid-division, ridden on outside 2f out, stayed on from over 1f out, went 3rd inside final furlong, never going pace to challenge, 3rd of 12, 2 3/4l behind Young Lieutenant (11-4) at Kempton 2m 2f (4) pol in Feb.
Sayo 50-1 (11-1) Held up towards rear, progress into mid-division after 3 out, ridden in 8th 2 out, no impression entering straight, kept on one pace, 7th of 22, 21 3/4l behind Maze Runner (9-13) at Leopardstown 3m hcp Soft - Heavy in Feb.
Saint Sonnet (FR) 9-2jfav (11-8) Raced out wide in mid-division, pushed along before 10th, weakened before next, behind and pulled up soon after, at Ascot 2m 3f hcp (2) hvy in Dec.
Botox Has (FR) 10-1 (11-9) Towards rear, mistake 6th, went modest 6th before last, never dangerous, 6th of 12, 16 1/2l behind Craigneiche (10-6) at Ascot 2m 3f hcp (1) sft in Jan.
Tea Clipper (IRE) 15-8fav (11-4) Held up in touch, ridden on outside over 3f out, pressed leader over 2f out, weakened over 1f out, 5th of 10, 6l behind Proschema (11-10) at Newcastle 2m (4) pol in Feb.
Burbank (IRE) 7-2 (11-6) Mid-division, took closer order 7f out, ridden along 3f out, no extra inside final furlong, 3rd of 13, 10 1/4l behind Not That Fuisse (11-0) at Newcastle 2m (4) pol in Feb.
Craigneiche (IRE) 14-1 (10-6) Always handy, led 2 out, asserting last, drew clear flat, readily, won at Ascot 2m 3f hcp (1) sft in Jan beating Arrivederci (11-2) by 7l, 12 ran.
Boreham Bill (IRE) 66-1 (11-0) Held up in mid-division, headway chasing leaders before 3 out, came wide in home straight and led before 2 out, kept on well, won at Kempton 2m 5f hcp lst (1) sft in Jan beating Misty Whisky (10-2) by 2 1/4l, 20 ran.
Garo De Juilley (FR) (10-10) won at Pau 2m 4f lst hvy in Feb beating Ajas (10-12) by 2 1/2l, 9 ran.
Heaven Help Us (IRE) 16-1 (10-12) Chased leader, 2nd halfway, challenged 2 out and soon disputed, ridden to lead entering straight, steadied last, strongly pressed closing stages, all out, won at Leopardstown 2m 2f hcp Soft - Heavy in Feb beating Global Equity (10-7) by nk, 20 ran.
Blue Sari (FR) 28-1 (11-5) Always towards rear, no impression when mistake when mistake 2 out, eased and pulled up before last, at Leopardstown 2m hcp Soft - Heavy in Feb.
Dysart Diamond (IRE) 7-2fav (11-2) Held up towards rear, progress into mid-division before 2 out, ridden and badly hampered 2 out, soon no extra, 15th of 20, dist behind Heaven Help Us (10-12) at Leopardstown 2m 2f hcp Soft - Heavy in Feb.
Sneaky Getaway (IRE) 9-4 (9-9) Chased leaders, 4th halfway, 3rd 4f out, ridden in 2nd 2f out, no impression on leader over 1f out, kept on same pace, 2nd of 8, 5l behind Grandmaster Flash (9-9) at Dundalk 2m pol in Feb.
Palmers Hill (IRE) 11-1 (11-11) Midfield, headway to track leaders 4 out, lost position 3 out, soon weakened, 13th of 16, dist behind Polish (11-4) at Newbury 3m hcp (2) gs in Feb.
Shakem Up'arry (IRE) 11-1 (10-10) Mid-division, ridden approaching 2 out, outpaced before last, plugged on through beaten rivals flat, 8th of 23, 12l behind Soaring Glory (10-7) at Newbury 2m hcp (1) gs in Feb.
Our Power (IRE) 10-1 (11-13) Chased leaders, not fluent and lost place 4th, struggling 9th, well beaten from 3 out, pulled up before 2 out, at Wincanton 2m 5f hcp (3) hvy in Feb.
Shang Tang (IRE) 15-8 (11-12) Raced wide tracked leader, led bend approaching last, pushed out, comfortable, won at Fakenham 2m 4f (3) sft in Feb beating Captain Morgs (11-8) by 4 3/4l, 4 ran.
Guard Your Dreams 14-1 (10-9) Held up in mid-division, outpaced after 5th, nudged along before 3 out, ridden before 2 out, stayed on well after last, 6th of 23, 7l behind Soaring Glory (10-7) at Newbury 2m hcp (1) gs in Feb.
Nelson River 9-2 (9-13) Midfield on outside, ridden 3f out, weakened over 1f out, 10th of 11, 13 1/4l behind The Rutland Rebel (9-12) at Wolverhampton 1m 6f hcp (6) pol in Feb.
Dans Le Vent (FR) 12-1 (10-8) Mistake 6th, towards rear, headway on inside chasing leaders after 3 out, 4th and one pace between last 2, 4th of 15, 8l behind Shannon Bridge (10-9) at Ascot 2m 3f hcp (2) sft in Feb.
Witness Protection (IRE) 9-2 (11-5) Chased leader, led before 3 out, ridden when not fluent last, hard pressed flat, found more to hold 2nd towards finish, won at Chepstow 2m (4) sft in Jan beating Can You Call (10-12) by 1/2l, 11 ran.