This has the look of a good Champion Hurdle trial and the vote goes to Arcalis, with his main rivals quite clearly looking to be Al Eile, Faasel and Royal Shakespeare. Last season's Supreme Novices' Hurdle winner, Arcalis returned for the season to land the Fighting Fifth Hurdle, in which he beat Royal Shakespeare, who seems better on quicker going, by five lengths, with Overstrand well beaten. He could go all the way to the top and needs to set about proving that claim today. Having finished seventh in last year's Champion Hurdle, Al Eile then beat Inglis Drever in a driving finish to the Grade 1 Scottish and Newcastle Aintree Hurdle. He's very useful and, although lacking a recent run, is respected. Beaten narrowly in the Triumph Hurdle, Faasel then landed a Grade 1 contest at Aintree. This season's form, most recently when third to Harchibald in the Bula Hurdle, showed that he retains plenty of ability and he, too, is respected. The others do not look good enough which, in turn, returns us to the selection, which is Arcalis.
Al Eile (IRE) 11-1 (11-7) Held up, headway after 3 out, challenged last, led final 100 yards, ran on, won at Aintree 2m 4f hdl Grd 1 (A) gs in Apr beating Inglis Drever (11-7) by a nk, 9 ran.
Arcalis 9-4fav (11-7) Held up in touch, mistake 3 out, led approaching next, quickened clear last, readily, won at Newcastle 2m hdl Grd 1 (A) sft in Nov beating Royal Shakespeare (11-7) by 5l, 9 ran.
Faasel (IRE) 9-2 (11-4) Held up and keen, headway after 3 out, ridden and every chance approaching last, weakened flat, 3rd of 9, 7l behind Harchibald (11-8) at Cheltenham 2m 1f hdl Grd 2 (A) gs in Dec.
Royal Shakespeare (FR) 12-1 (11-7) Close up, upsides winner when hit 2 out, soon no impression, 3rd of 7, 15l behind Feathard Lady (11-0) at Sandown 2m hdl Grd 1 (A) gs in Dec.
Milligan (FR) 100-1 (11-1) Jumped right, chased winner, every chance 3 out, 3rd and weakening when fell 2 out in race won by Flying Spirit (11-10) at Cheltenham 2m nov chs (C) gd in Oct, 7 ran.
Mister McGoldrick 11-2 (11-8) Tracked leader, led after 5 out, clear approaching last, kept on well, won at Wetherby 2m chs Grd 2 (A) sft in Dec beating Albuhera (11-3) by 12l, 5 ran.
Overstrand (IRE) 33-1 (10-4) Mid-division, hit 4th, outpaced approaching 3 out, ridden and kept on from next, no impression, 4th of 12, 6l behind dhtrs Buck Whaley (10-6) & Rayshan (10-7) at Carlisle 2m 1f hcp hdl 0-140 (2) hvy.