A terrific turnout for this Grade 1 contest and all eyes will be on Cotton Mill, who was still travelling well and alongside winner Simonsig at Cheltenham last month when ducking out at the second-last. There's clearly a question mark over his temperament but an earlier victory in a Grade 2 at Warwick has worked out well and he won't be far away if in the mood and lasting home over this longer trip. Fingal Bay was forced to miss Cheltenham through injury but is assumed to have made a full recovery and will make a bold bid to extend his unbeaten record if that's the case as he was too strong for Simonsig in a Grade 2 over 2m5f at Sandown in December and stayed on strongly to hold off Ballyrock in the Challow Hurdle at Newbury later the same month. Tap Night didn't look anything special last summer but has made giant strides since landing a novices' handicap at Carlisle in November, going on to complete the hat-trick at Newcastle and Kelso, while Lovcen was fourth in the Albert Bartlett at Cheltenham when Ipsos Du Berlais didn't run his race and was pulled up. The latter is blinkered for the first time here but we'll take a chance on the unexposed HARRY TOPPER, who is closely matched with Lovcen on a line through the impressive Brindisi Breeze and will be staying on here when others have cried enough.
Aikideau (FR) 16-1 (11-8) Chased leaders, pushed along and headway before 2 out, soon challenged, every chance before last, no extra flat, 3rd of 18, 12l behind Ambion Wood (11-12) at Sandown 2m 4f NH Novice Handicap Hurdle (Grade 3) (4-7yo) (1) gs in Mar.
Ballyrock (IRE) 25-1 (11-7) Tracked leaders, went 3rd after 3rd, pushed along before 2 out, stayed on after 2 out, went 2nd after last, stayed on flat, always held, 2nd of 5, 1l behind Fingal Bay (11-7) at Newbury 2m 5f nov hdl Grade 1 (1) sft in Dec.
Cotton Mill 8-1 (11-7) Tracked leaders, went 2nd after 3rd, led approaching 3 out, still going ok but pressed when ducked left and unseated rider 2 out, in a race won by Simonsig (11-7) at Cheltenham 2m 5f nov hdl Grade 1 (1) gd in Mar, 17 ran.
Ely Brown (IRE) 8-1 (11-12) Prominent, ridden approaching 9th, outpaced 3 out, weakened approaching 2 out, went 3rd last, 3rd of 14, 29l behind Kilmacowen (11-3) at Warwick 3m 1f nh nov hdl (4) gd in Mar.
Fingal Bay (IRE) 1-4fav (11-7) Raced on inner, tracked leading pair until settled 4th after 3rd, good headway to track leader 6th, led 2 out, soon clear, idled before last, driven out and always just doing enough flat, won at Newbury 2m 5f nov hdl Grade 1 (1) sft in Dec beating Ballyrock (11-7) by 1l, 5 ran.
Forgotten Gold (IRE) 20-1 (11-12) Led, headed after 2 out, kept on same pace, 4th and held when blundered last, weakened flat, 5th of 11, 23l behind Batonnier (11-5) at Cheltenham 2m 4f nov hdl G2 (1) gs in Jan.
Golden Call (IRE) 5-1 (11-5) Always prominent, led 3rd, driven clear after 2 out, ran on strongly, eased near finish, won at Bangor 3m hcp hdl 0-140 (3) gd in Mar beating So Fine (11-3) by 9l, 13 ran.
Gullinbursti (IRE) 9-4fav (11-1) Tracked leaders, mistake 7th, challenegd after 2 out, 1 length down flat, stayed on well towards finish, 2nd of 15, nk behind Knock A Hand (11-1) at Newbury 3m hcp hdl 0-145 (2) gs in Feb.
Harry Topper 9-2fav (11-8) Held up mid-division, ridden before 3 out, headway before 2 out, chased winner last 100 yards, no impression, 2nd of 9, 12l behind Brindisi Breeze (11-8) at Haydock 3m nov hdl G2 (1) hvy in Feb.
Hawkes Point 7-2 (11-5) Took keen hold, chased leaders, led approaching 2 out, slight lead but pressed when went left and not fluent last, headed and one pace flat, 2nd of 10, 2l behind Hildisvini (11-8) at Sandown 2m 6f hcp hdl 0-135 (3) gs in Mar.
Ipsos Du Berlais (FR) 20-1 (11-7) Mid-division, pushed along and struggling to hold place when hampered on bend after 6th, soon in rear, tailed off 3 out, pulled up before last, in a race won by Brindisi Breeze (11-7) at Cheltenham 3m nov hdl Grade 1 (1) gd in Mar, 20 ran.
Knock A Hand (IRE) 5-1 (11-1) Mid-division, headway approaching 8th, led when not fluent 3 out, blundered next, soon headed, led again before last, held on gamely, won at Newbury 3m hcp hdl 0-145 (2) gs in Feb beating Gullinbursti (11-1) by nk, 15 ran.
Lovcen (GER) 12-1 (11-7) Mid-division, headway on inside after 3 out, not able to go with leaders after next, stayed on approaching last to take 4th flat, no impression, 4th of 20, 9l behind Brindisi Breeze (11-7) at Cheltenham 3m nov hdl Grade 1 (1) gd in Mar.
Makethe Mostofnow (IRE) 11-4fav (11-9) In touch, headway to 2nd 4 out, led 2 out, clear and in no danger when hit last, won at Ffos Las 3m nh nov hdl (4) sft in Mar beating Miss Kalifa (10-10) by 8l, 12 ran.
Nagpur (FR) 66-1 (11-7) Held up towards rear, ridden after 6th, stayed on approaching last, never in contention, 6th of 17, 34l behind Simonsig (11-7) at Cheltenham 2m 5f nov hdl Grade 1 (1) gd in Mar.
Netminder (IRE) 11-4 (11-4) Prominent early, soon towards rear, headway to chase leaders from 4 out, went 3rd before 2 out, kept on and no impression, 3rd of 9, 12l behind Dark Glacier (11-4) at Newcastle 2m 6f nov hdl (3) gs in Feb.
Poole Master 8-1 (10-3) In touch on outside, joined leader 4 out, mistake and lost place next, weakened after next, 17th of 28, 37l behind Son Of Flicka (10-6) at Cheltenham 2m 5f hcp hdl Grade 3 (1) gd in Mar.
Tap Night (USA) 9-4 (11-5) Held up in touch, went 4th soon after 6th, mistake 3 out, chased leader before last, stayed on gamely under pressure to lead final 120 yards, won at Kelso 2m 2f nov hdl G2 (1) gd in Mar beating Captain Conan (11-8) by 2l, 6 ran.
Catcherinscratcher (IRE) 8-1 (11-0) Led, joined before 4th and headed 6th, no extra after 3 out and soon dropped to 6th, weakened, 6th of 7, 38l behind My Murphy (11-7) at Navan 2m 7f nov hdl sft in Mar.