Smiths Cross was chasing last year but had some decent form over hurdles in 2018. Balagan has already won here and at Market Rasen this summer but carries a double penalty and easy Southwell winner Apres Le Deluge has 6lb extra. Shinobi showed plenty of ability in three runs in bumpers but we’ll give one final chance to SUNNY EXPRESS, who was struggling to get home on soft going last season but ran well on Tapeta in February so might enjoy this better surface.
Apres Le Deluge (FR) 11-8fav (11-0) Held up in rear, closing when mistake 7th, went 2nd after 3 out, led going well 2 out, soon clear, easily, won at Southwell 2m 4f (4) gd in Jul beating I'm Here (11-0) by 4l, 10 ran.
Smiths Cross (IRE) 5-1 (11-10) Mid-division, headway 8th, weakened after 3 out, 7th of 8, dist behind Iwilldoit (11-10) at Kelso 2m 6f hcp (3) sft in Dec.
Sunny Express (IRE) 7-1 (11-4) Tracked leaders, went 2nd over 3f out, ridden over 2f out, kept on, never on terms with winner, 2nd of 10, 2 1/4l behind Getariver (10-11) at Wolverhampton 2m 1f (4) pol in Feb.
Tikanite (IRE) 4-1 (11-0) Tracked leaders, took keen hold, ridden over 3f out, one pace 2f out, stayed on final 100 yards, went 3rd close home, 3rd of 9, 2 1/2l behind Mcnamaras Band (10-11) at Worcester 2m (6) gd in Jun.
Shinobi (IRE) 22-1 (10-12) Chased winner, ridden and one pace over 2f out, lost place over 1f out, 10th of 16, 15 1/2l behind Audacity (10-12) at Cheltenham 1m 6f lst (1) sft in Jan.
Earcomesali 66-1 (10-5) Not always fluent in last, behind 5th, tailed off 7th, pulled up before 8th, at Uttoxeter 2m 7f (4) gs in Jun.
Especially So 125-1 (10-7) Always behind, tailed off 6th, 9th of 12, dist behind Courtandbould (11-0) at Stratford 2m 3f (4) gd in Jul.
Marie's Girl 150-1 (10-12) Mid-division, lost place and not much room over 4f out, soon weakened, 11th of 12, 36l behind Miss Farage (10-12) at Uttoxeter 2m (5) gd in Jul.
Rann Of Kutch (IRE) 250-1 (10-12) Always in rear, last of 9, dist behind Bit On The Side (11-5) at Uttoxeter 2m 4f (4) gd in Aug.
Balagan 11-10fav (11-5) Made all, ridden 2 out, ran on, won at Market Rasen 2m 5f (4) gd in Aug beating Art Approval (10-10) by 1l, 5 ran.