Zarkandar won this last year but was receiving weight from his two market rivals. The boot is on the other foot this year, though he did beat THE NEW ONE over 2m4f in the Aintree Hurdle in April and ran well at the weights when second to Annie Power on his reappearance. Nigel Twiston-Davies believes his charge has grown and improved over the summer, however, and he certainly have that impression when readily bounding clear of former champion Rock On Ruby at Kempton in October - he can win again. French raider Albert Hall has been on a remarkable run, winning three times over hurdles and twice on the Flat since the beginning of August. But he was pulled up in a handicap on his only previous start in the UK. Fellow Gallic challenger Seabreeze D'ho also appears to have it all to do while Court Minstrel has been well below par so far this term, though has a much higher rating than both Hawkhill and Jumps Road.
The New One (IRE) 1-2fav (11-8) Tracked leading pair, went 2nd before 4 out, quickened to lead 2 out, soon clear, easily, won at Kempton 2m Listed hdl (1) gs in Oct beating Rock On Ruby (11-8) by 10l, 4 ran.
Zarkandar (IRE) 15-8 (11-8) Tracked leader, led briefly after 1st, led again approaching 5th, joined 2 out, stayed on well, headed last, soon driven, no extra final 150 yards, 2nd of 4, 5l behind Annie Power (10-11) at Ascot 2m 3f hdl G2 (1) gs in Nov.
Albert Hall (USA) (10-12) won at Enghien(FR) 2m 3f lstd hcp hdl sft in Oct beating Rocketir (11-4) by 1l, 16 ran.
Court Minstrel (IRE) 14-1 (11-12) Held up in rear, hampered 4th, headway after 3 out, disputing 6th last, stayed on same pace, not able to get on terms, 7th of 18, 8l behind Dell' Arca (10-5) at Cheltenham 2m hcp hdl Grade 3 (1) gd in Nov.
Hawkhill (IRE) 16-1 (11-9) Chased leaders, blunderd 4 out, soon weakened, towards rear when slipped up on bend approaching 3 out, in a race won by Moujik Borget (11-1) at Haydock 2m hcp hdl 0-135 (3) sft in Nov, 12 ran.
Seabreeze D'ho (FR) 5-1 (10-5) 10th of 13, well behind Rhialco (10-3) at Auteuil(FR) 2m 5f Grd 2 hdl gd in Nov.
Jumps Road 7-2 (11-11) Led until 2nd, pressed leader, led again well before 2 out, soon clear, joined last, strongly pressed flat, battled on gamely under pressure and in command final 75 yards, won at Wincanton 2m hcp hdl 0-125 (3) gd beating Prompter (11-9) by 1l, 9 ran.