The Henderson yard will be looking for a repeat of last year's win and have strong claims with Close Touch. The bumper winner made a fine start over hurdles last month when landing the odds at Fakenham but LORDOFTHEHOUSE is just preferred. A decent, if temperamental, handicapper on the level, he did nothing wrong when scoring on his hurdling bow at Wetherby for new connections and the third placed horse has already franked the form with a subsequent win. Fair Trade was Group-class on the Flat as a three-year-old but his form tailed off and he makes his hurdling debut for Alan King today. He makes more appeal then Pahente and Time Square, low grade handicappers on the Flat, while French import Loyaute was still beaten a long way when third on her hurdling bow at Exeter.
Close Touch 4-5fav (10-12) Tracked leader until 3rd and again 3 out, led 2 out, clear before last, easily, won at Fakenham 2m nh nov hdl (4) gs in Oct beating It's A Mans World (10-12) by 11l, 7 ran.
Lordofthehouse (IRE) 6-1 (11-0) Slowly away and reluctant to race, in rear and jumped slowly 1st, headway after 3rd, soon mid-division, chased leaders 4 out, led 2 out, stayed on strongly, won at Wetherby 2m nh nov hdl (3) gs beating Falcarragh (11-0) by 5l, 9 ran.
Fair Trade 40-1 (9-10) Held up, ridden over 2f out, never a factor, 8th of 12, 11l behind Art Scholar (9-10) at Nottingham 1m 2f hcp 0-85 (4) gs in Oct (flat).
Pahente 11-4 (10-3) Tracked leaders, ridden 3f out, kept on same pace, 4th of 7, 9l behind A Little Bit Dusty (11-2) at Haydock 1m 4f am hcp (0-70) (4yo+) (5) gf in Sep (flat).
Time Square (FR) 100-1 (10-12) In rear, not fluent 4th, mistake 2 out, always behind, tailed off, 15th of 16, well behind Third Intention (10-12) at Newbury 2m 3yo hdl (4) gd in Dec '10.
Loyaute (FR) 40-1 (10-2) Led, ridden and headed approaching 3 out, jumped left and beaten 2 out, one pace, 3rd of 11, 15l behind Landscape (10-12) at Exeter 2m 1f nh nov hdl (3) sft.