Gringo would not need to improve too much to get off the mark over hurdles; Clueless, Cheer Us On and Smart Street are expected to provide the sternest challenges this afternoon. Smart Street was a surprise winner here last time but went about the task in game fashion. However, quite whether he can repeat the effort from the front under a penalty is debatable and he needs everything to go his way today. Cheer Us On - winner of a couple of modest bumpers - makes his hurdles debut and has to be respected as an improving individual. Mick Easterby's charge is a doubtful stayer on pedigree though, so a careful monitoring of the betting would be advisable before getting involved with this fellow. Clueless won a handicap off a mark of 84 on the Flat, so is not without ability. Nevertheless, he was a major disappointment when introduced to the winter game last season and, as he lacks a change of gear, a step up in trip is sure to suit him better. Therefore, we prefer to go with Gringo, who showed plenty of promise when he finished fourth at Kempton last month. That form is working out well and this looks to be a good opportunity for another Graham Wylie-owned jumper to flourish under today's conditions.
Smart Street 16-1 (10-7) Jumped right, made all, clear flat, unchallenged, won at Kelso 2m nh mdn hdl (5) gs in Oct beating Nae Bother At All (10-12) by 16l, 15 ran.
Cheer Us On 11-4jt-fav (11-4) Held up rear, steady headway 6f out, ridden to challenge leader over 2f out, led inside final furlong, ridden out, won at Worcester 2m nhf (6) gd in May beating Treasury Counsel (10-9) by 1 1/2l, 9 ran.
Clueless 2-5fav (10-11) Mid-division, headway approaching 5th, ridden approaching 3 out, one pace approaching last, 4th of 15, 9l behind Calfraz (10-11) at Ayr 2m 4yo nov hdl (4) sft in Jan.
Fair Shake (IRE) 66-1 (11-0) Held up, headway approaching 3 out, edged left approaching last, one pace, 4th of 17, 7l behind Bleak House (11-0) at Aintree 2m mdn hdl (3) gd in Oct.
Gringo 4-1 (11-0) Held up in touch, took closer order 3 out, soon ridden, weakened next, 4th of 7, 15l behind Self Respect (11-0) at Kempton 2m lst nov hdl (1) gd in Oct.
Tomillielou 9-4fav (11-4) Behind, outpaced over 5f out, ridden and headway over 3f out, kept on, never troubled leaders, 3rd of 13, 8l behind Nortonthorpe Lad (11-4) at Sedgefield 2m 1f mdn nhf (6) gs in Oct.
To Tiger (GER) 4-1 (10-5) Held up, headway approaching 2 out, no impression approaching last, 6th of 16, 30l behind Gunner Jack (10-12) at Carlisle 2m 4f nov hdl (4) hvy in Oct.
Westgrove Berry (IRE) 7-1 (11-7) Behind, pushed along halfway, never in contention, 7th of 17, 31l behind Classic Fiddle (11-2) at Cheltenham 2m 1f mrs nhf (4) gd in Apr.