led until after 2nd, pressed leader, every chance 2 out, chased leader, led narrowly between last two, awkward and headed last, 3rd and one pace run-in, faded into 4th towards finish
A tricky opener with the leading yards of Nicky Henderson, Paul Nicholls and Alan King all doubly represented. The former’s Alibi De Sivola is unlikely to have fitness issues but stable companion ARGANTE is potentially well treated on his handicap debut over hurdles as he was a decent stayer on the Flat in France. The Nicholls’ pair - Rainy City and Coastal Tiep - are both eased in grade while King’s duo - River Frost and Wishing And Hoping - were both on the heels of the leaders when falling in their respective latest outings at Wincanton. Nathans Pride could also figure if fully wound-up and Crimson Ark and Lough Derg Leader add to the interest.
Rainy City (IRE) 7-1 (10-12) Held up in mid-division, lost place and dropped towards rear approaching 7th, renewed effort tracking leaders 3 out, 3rd traveling ok before 2 out, ridden and one pace between last 2, 3rd of 9, 4l behind Arctic Gold (10-11) at Sandown 2m 7f hcp (2) gs in Dec.
Crimson Ark (IRE) 9-4fav (11-3) Held up, in touch, bad mistake 5 out, soon pulled up, at Ascot 2m 3f hcp (3) gd in Oct.
River Frost 11-4fav (11-11) Held up way off the pace, closed before 3 out, disputing handy 3rd when fell 2 out, at Wincanton 2m 4f hcp (3) hvy in Feb.
Lough Derg Leader (IRE) 7-1 (11-5) Mid-division, pushed along after 7th, headway next, outpaced before 3 out, weakened approaching next, 5th of 14, 15 3/4l behind Tobefair (11-0) at Warwick 3m 2f hcp (2) sft in Jan.
Coastal Tiep (FR) 5-1 (11-3) Tracked leaders, pushed along after 3 out, edged right and weakened before next, 4th of 8, 15 3/4l behind Elegant Escape (11-3) at Ascot 2m 6f (2) gs in Nov.
Easter Day (FR) 5-1 (11-12) Held up in last pair, pushed along and struggling in 5th after 2 out, went modest 4th last, 4th of 7, 18 3/4l behind Ganbei (10-10) at Stratford 3m 2f hcp (3) gd in May.
Wishing And Hoping (IRE) 9-1 (11-0) Held up in rear, mistake 8th and 13th, headway when left 3rd 3 out, about 3 lengths off front pair when fell 2 out, at Wincanton 2m 4f (3) gs in Dec.
Nathans Pride (IRE) 20-1 (10-0) Held up towards rear on outside, headway after 5th, went 2nd 3 out, led next, clear flat, stayed on well, won at Aintree 2m 4f hcp (2) gf in May beating Party Rock (11-1) by 2 3/4l, 10 ran.
Shwaiman (IRE) 25-1 (9-7) Tracked leaders, ridden over 2f out, weakened over 1f out, 8th of 9, 11 1/4l behind Paddys Motorbike (8-12) at Wolverhampton 1m 4f hcp (3) pol in Jan.
Alibi De Sivola (FR) 5-2 (10-12) Held up, headway track leaders, 4th, led 7th, driven out, won at Carlisle 2m 3f (4) hvy in Nov beating Takingrisks (10-12) by 2 1/2l, 10 ran.
Expedite (IRE) 4-1fav (11-12) Took keen hold, chased leader until after 6th, weakened before normal 3 out, 5th of 12, dist behind Allee Bleue (11-12) at Leicester 2m 4f hcp (3) hvy in Feb.
Apple Of Our Eye 5-1 (11-4) Tracked leaders, lost place before 3 out, last of 9, 33 1/2l behind Byron Flyer (11-6) at Doncaster 2m 3f hcp (3) gd in Nov.
Argante (FR) 6-5fav (11-0) Tracked leaders on inside, hit 3 out, led next, clear before last, ran on well, won at Fakenham 2m 4f mdn (5) gs in Dec beating Third Estate (11-0) by 15l, 8 ran.