There have been a few shocks in this down the years but Edgardo Sol was a popular winner last year and his trainer, Paul Nicholls, has a couple of fancied entries this time around. Ruby Walsh has chosen Sandown scorer Rebel Rebellion ahead of Doncaster winner Toubab and he goes on the short-lists along with Kid Cassidy, runner-up in the Grand Annual at Cheltenham. Oiseau De Nuit finished third at The Festival while Anquetta was ninth. Viva Colonia, Tanks For That and Stagecoach Pearl all failed to finish. ASTRACAD goes well fresh and was second in this 12 months ago off a 2lb higher mark. The good ground is very much in his favour and first-time blinkers may just encourage him to put his best foot forward and go one better this year, though it would be no surprise to see Pires, Kings Grey and Echo Bob in the firing-line as well and novices Ciceron and Kie don't look badly treated.
Kid Cassidy (IRE) 12-1 (10-11) Not fluent 1st, in rear, headway on outside 6th (water), led 2 out (usual 3 out), soon hard pressed, headed narrowly approaching bypassed last, no extra towards finish, 2nd of 23, 3 1/2l behind Alderwood (10-11) at Cheltenham 2m hcp chs G3 (1) sft in Mar.
Oiseau de Nuit (FR) 33-1 (11-3) Mid-division on outside, in touch 5th, driven 2 out (usual 3 out), stayed on to take well beaten 3rd approaching bypassed last, no impression with front pair, 3rd of 23, 13l behind Alderwood (10-11) at Cheltenham 2m hcp chs G3 (1) sft in Mar.
Tanks For That (IRE) 33-1 (11-8) Chased leaders to 6th (water), behind when mistake 10th, pulled up before 3 out (usual 4 out), in a race won by Alderwood (10-11) at Cheltenham 2m hcp chs G3 (1) sft in Mar, 23 ran.
Toubab (FR) Evensfav (11-12) Raced keenly, made all and soon clear, mistake and pecked 2 out, stayed on well, ridden out from last, unchallenged, won at Doncaster 2m hcp chs 0-145 (2) gd in Mar beating Ulysse Collonges (10-6) by 3/4l, 6 ran.
Astracad (FR) 10-1 (10-8) In touch, lost place 11th, soon behind, 7th of 14, well behind Unioniste (9-9) at Cheltenham 2m 5f hcp chs Grd 3 (1) hvy in Dec.
Stagecoach Pearl 66-1 (11-2) Led 1st, headed 6th (water), chased leaders until brought down 10th, in a race won by Alderwood (10-11) at Cheltenham 2m hcp chs G3 (1) sft in Mar, 23 ran.
Rebel Rebellion (IRE) 4-5fav (11-7) Jumped boldly, led after 2nd, stayed on strongly from 3 out, easily, won at Sandown 2m nov chs (3) hvy in Mar beating Fairy Rath (11-7) by 14l, 5 ran.
West With The Wind 66-1 (11-12) Went right start, mid-division on outside, lost place when hit 4th, soon behind, tailed off 5 out, 14th of 15, well behind Ulck Du Lin (10-2) at Newbury 2m 1f hcp chs 0-145 (2) gs in Dec.
Viva Colonia (IRE) 16-1 (10-11) Behind, hampered 4th, headway 11th, chased leaders under pressure when hit 2 out (usual 3 out), soon weakened, pulled up before next, in a race won by Alderwood (10-11) at Cheltenham 2m hcp chs G3 (1) sft in Mar, 23 ran.
Pires 14-1 (11-3) Held up towards rear, headway into 7th 3 out and slight mistake, ridden entering straight, stayed on to 4th last, kept on into 3rd run-in, 3rd of 11, 2 3/4l behind Lastoftheleaders (11-6) at Punchestown 2m hcp chs hvy in Feb.
Anquetta (IRE) 20-1 (10-8) Mid-division, headway 3 out (usual 4 out), weakened after next, 9th of 23, 38l behind Alderwood (10-11) at Cheltenham 2m hcp chs G3 (1) sft in Mar.
Kings Grey (IRE) 4-1 (10-12) Held up towards rear, mistakes 6th, headway after 4 out, went 3rd 2 out, weakened final 100 yards, 3rd of 20, 13l behind Red Devil Boys (10-12) at Doncaster 2m 3f nov hdl (4) sft in Dec.
Echo Bob (IRE) 10-1 (11-4) Led, headed before 3 out, soon ridden, no extra in 3rd 2 out, weakened from last, 5th of 7, 13l behind Days Hotel (11-10) at Cork 2m chs Grd 2 (1) sft in Dec.
Silver Roque (FR) 4-1 (11-12) Held up in rear, steady headway when blundered 9th, not much room and switched right soon after, chased leaders approaching 4 out, went 2nd and pushed right 2 out, led last, stayed on well run-in, ridden out, won at Newbury 2m 1f hcp chs 0-130 (3) gs in Mar beating Oscar Hill (11-12) by 1 1/4l, 8 ran.
Donnas Palm (IRE) 25-1 (11-5) Rear of mid-division, moderate 14th 3 out (usual 4 out), kept on one paced straight, 8th of 20, 41l behind Tofino Bay (11-4) at Navan 3m hcp chs 0-150 hvy in Nov.
Nozic (FR) 6-1 (11-5) Held up in last trio, steady headway 8th, chasing leaders when hit 4 out, went 3rd and pressed leaders 3 out, no extra next, 4th of 9, 18l behind Olympian Boy (10-4) at Sandown 2m hcp chs 0-130 (3) gd in Feb.
Ciceron (IRE) 2-1 (11-7) Raced wide, tracked leading pair, effort on outside to 2nd before 3 out, no chance with easy winner, lost 2nd post, 3rd of 5, 14l behind Rebel Rebellion (11-7) at Sandown 2m nov chs (3) hvy in Mar.
Kie (IRE) 3-1 (10-13) Tracked leader, led after 12th, headed 4 out, awkward next, one pace and no impression on winner from 2 out, 2nd of 3, 7l behind Arthur's Pass (10-10) at Ludlow 2m 4f Novice Handicap Chase (0-140) (5yo+) (3) gs in Feb.