CAPTAIN CONAN easily beat Changing Times in a Grade 1 at Sandown in February but the placings were reversed behind Benefficient in the Jewson at Cheltenham. Nicky Henderson's six-year-old will have to jump better here but is capable of doing so and is probably the one to beat on his best form as the going may be too quick for Fago, surprisingly beaten at Sandown after falling when favourite at Warwick. His Excellency finished second in that Warwick race and was then a staying-on third in the Arkle but fell when turned out again quickly in the Grand Annual, where Drumshambo eventually finished fourth, and lacks a bit of scope now. Carlito Brigante ran in another handicap at The Festival but was pulled up and is likely to find at least a couple of these too good off level weights while it's even harder to make a case for Sunny Ledgend and Tap Night.
Captain Conan (FR) 5-1 (11-4) Tracked leaders, pushed along 4 out, headway to challenge after next, ridden 2 out, every chance last, no extra flat, well held in 3rd when dropped to 5th near finish, 5th of 13, 5l behind Benefficient (11-4) at Cheltenham 2m 4f nov chs G2 (1) gs in Mar.
Carlito Brigante (IRE) 8-1 (11-9) In touch in mid-division, hampered badly and lost place 11th, pulled up before 4 out, in a race won by Rajdhani Express (11-7) at Cheltenham 2m 4f Listed Novice Handicap Chase (0-140) (5yo+) (1) sft in Mar, 20 ran.
Changing Times (IRE) 100-1 (11-4) Held up in rear, not fluent 3rd, headway 3 out, ridden after next, stayed on under pressure flat, went 3rd near finish, no impression with front pair, 3rd of 13, 4 1/2l behind Benefficient (11-4) at Cheltenham 2m 4f nov chs G2 (1) gs in Mar.
Drumshambo (USA) 20-1 (10-13) Mid-division on outside, in touch 5th, outpaced 2 out (usual 3 out), kept on same pace, no impression, 4th of 23, 19l behind Alderwood (10-11) at Cheltenham 2m hcp chs G3 (1) sft in Mar.
Fago (FR) 2-5fav (11-5) Took keen hold, waited with tracking leading pair, not fluent 3rd, mistake 4 out, closer order travelling well enough before next, went 2nd 2 out, no chance with winner, 2nd of 3, 15l behind Kapga De Cerisy (11-2) at Sandown 2m nov chs (2) gd in Feb.
His Excellency (IRE) 33-1 (11-8) Held up behind when fell 11th, in a race won by Alderwood (10-11) at Cheltenham 2m hcp chs G3 (1) sft in Mar, 23 ran.
Sunny Ledgend 25-1 (10-7) Tracked leaders, outpaced 2 out (usual 3 out), kept on same pace, no impression, 6th of 24, 21l behind Same Difference (11-0) at Cheltenham 3m 1f Amateur Handicap Chase (0-145) (5yo+) (2) gs in Mar.
Tap Night (USA) 25-1 (11-7) Held up behind, not fluent 7th (water), struggling 9th, no danger after, 5th of 7, 47l behind Simonsig (11-7) at Cheltenham 2m nov chs G1 (1) sft in Mar.