Nearby was fourth in this last year but has enough weight this time though he did run another fine race in the County Handicap Hurdle at Cheltenham where Ciceron fell at the last after being prominent throughout. Gary Moore is always to be feared in these big handicaps and his two entries, Via Galilei, an excellent second in the Imperial Cup at Sandown, and the exciting novice Orzare, are on the short-list. Jack Cool has been going well in Ireland and should carry his penalty with distinction but this could rest between Plan A and ALAZAN. The former was having only his fourth start over timber when an excellent fourth behind What A Charm in the Fred Winter at The Festival and his yard continues to fire them in but it's Alazan who just gets the vote as he looks very well handicapped and was in cracking form on the Flat and over timber when last seen in the autumn.
Nearby 66-1 (11-1) In touch, lost place 2 out, rallied approaching last, ridden and stayed on well flat, went 3rd near finish, not reach leading pair, 3rd of 26, 1 3/4l behind Final Approach (10-12) at Cheltenham 2m 1f hcp hdl G3 (1) gd in Mar.
Eradicate (IRE) 16-1 (11-2) Chased leaders, ridden and weakened approaching 2 out, well held in 6th when blundered last, 6th of 24, 19l behind Alarazi (10-3) at Sandown 2m lst hcp hdl (0-150) (1) gd in Mar.
Ciceron (IRE) 33-1 (10-10) Mid-division, outpaced 2 out, soon ridden, one pace and no impression when fell last, in a race won by Final Approach (10-12) at Cheltenham 2m 1f hcp hdl G3 (1) gd in Mar, 26 ran.
Via Galilei (IRE) 7-1fav (10-6) Held up in mid-divsion, smooth headway after 3 out, went 2nd on bit 2 out, led between last 2, ridden and headed last, not pace of winner flat, 2nd of 24, 2 3/4l behind Alarazi (10-3) at Sandown 2m lst hcp hdl (0-150) (1) gd in Mar.
Jack Cool (IRE) 4-1 (11-2) Soon mid-division, good headway to be close up 5 out, pushed along before straight, gained narrow lead before 2 out, stayed on well under pressure to draw clear run-in, won at Limerick 2m hdl beating Gift Of Dgab (11-6) by 3 1/2l, 13 ran.
Tito Bustillo (FR) 16-1 (10-13) Always in rear, tailed off 3 out, 19th of 24, well behind Alarazi (10-3) at Sandown 2m lst hcp hdl (0-150) (1) gd in Mar.
Conquisto 9-1 (11-7) Raced keenly, led or disputed lead and clear to 6th, lost place after 3 out, weakened next, 8th of 12, 30l behind Pegasus Prince (10-9) at Market Rasen 2m 3f hcp hdl 0-135 (3) gs in Feb.
Total Excitement (IRE) 14-1 (11-4) Towards rear, progress into moderate 6th 2 out, soon no impression and kept on same pace, 5th of 14, 12l behind Temlett (10-5) at Cork 2m hcp hdl in Mar.
Red Merlin (IRE) 2-5fav (11-0) Tracked leader, went 2nd before 3 out, led and going after next, drew clear on bit flat, very easily, won at Hereford 2m 1f 4yo nov stks (4) gd in Mar beating Paddy Partridge (11-6) by 10l, 5 ran.
Gifted Leader (USA) 10-1 (10-10) Chased leader, led and carried right by loose horse just before 3 out, clear from 2 out, easily, won at Stratford 2m hcp hdl 0-135 (3) gd beating Altan Khan (10-1) by 12l, 9 ran.
Gorge (AUS) 66-1 (11-7) Always towards rear, tailed of from 4 out, pulled up before 3 out, in a race won by Reindeer Dippin (11-1) at Newcastle 2m hcp hdl 0-135 (3) hvy in Feb, 12 ran.
Far Away So Close (IRE) 66-1 (11-7) Held up behind, headway into mid-division 3 out, never reached leaders, 9th of 15, 22l behind Al Ferof (11-7) at Cheltenham 2m nov hdl Grade 1 (1) gd in Mar.
Orzare (IRE) 8-11fav (11-8) Raced wide, tracked leader until before 2nd, settled 3rd,went 2nd again soon after 5th, led after 3 out, clear soon after 2 out, stayed on strongly, won at Plumpton 2m 4yo nov hdl (3) gs in Feb '10 beating Taste The Wine (10-12) by 19l, 7 ran.
Ultimate 25-1 (10-3) Made most until ridden and headed 2 out, weakened before last, 5th of 24, 16l behind Alarazi (10-3) at Sandown 2m lst hcp hdl (0-150) (1) gd in Mar.
Alazan (IRE) 11-4fav (10-6) Made all, clear from 2nd to 5th, driven approaching 2 out, ridden and stayed on to go clear again approaching last, won at Bangor 2m 1f hcp hdl 0-150 (2) gd in Aug beating Son Of Flicka (11-8) by 5l, 9 ran.
Hibiki (IRE) 20-1 (11-8) Towards rear, mistake 2nd, outpaced 3 out, weakened next, 13th of 17, 39l behind L'Accordioniste (11-9) at Cheltenham 2m 1f hcp hdl 0-135 (3) gd in Dec.
Amazing King (IRE) 10-1 (11-5) Settled in mid-division, headway 6th, chased leader 3 out, ridden to lead after next, mistake last, headed and no extra last strides, 2nd of 10, 1l behind Fujin Dancer (10-6) at Fakenham 2m hcp hdl 0-125 (3) gd in Mar.
Caravel (IRE) 50-1 (10-6) In touch, ridden and outpaced after 3 out, 9th of 24, 29l behind Alarazi (10-3) at Sandown 2m lst hcp hdl (0-150) (1) gd in Mar.
Praxiteles (IRE) 40-1 (9-13) Mid-division on inside, mistake 4th, lost place 2 out, behind when hampered and unseated rider last, in a race won by Final Approach (10-12) at Cheltenham 2m 1f hcp hdl G3 (1) gd in Mar, 26 ran.
Plan A (IRE) 4-1fav (11-8) Held up in mid-division, headway 3 out, not fluent 2 out, ridden and disputing close 3rd approaching last, stayed on same pace flat, 4th of 23, 7l behind What A Charm (10-6) at Cheltenham 2m 4yo nov hcp hdl Grd 3 (1) gd in Mar.
Lucaindubai (IRE) 25-1 (10-0) Chased leaders, ridden after 3 out, staying on same pace in 4th when hit last, 4th of 24, 8l behind Alarazi (10-3) at Sandown 2m lst hcp hdl (0-150) (1) gd in Mar.
Caught By Witness (IRE) 9-2 (11-8) In touch, ridden 4 out, weakened soon after 2 out, 7th of 9, 27l behind Brunswick Gold (11-2) at Fakenham 2m 4f NH nov hdl (4-7yo) (3) gs in Feb.