Defending champion Binocular's defection has taken a little gloss off this contest but some very smart hurdlers will still battle to succeed Nicky Henderson's gelding. The form of Philip Hobbs' stable is a little disconcerting but there is no getting away from the claims of Menorah, who had both Dunguib and Oscar Whisky behind when winning the Supreme Novices' Hurdle on this card 12 months ago. His Cheltenham record is second to none and he certainly won't go down without a fight but there is a lot of confidence behind PEDDLERS CROSS and Donald McCain's six-year-old is fancied to extend his unbeaten record and land his biggest prize to date. He was clearly in need of the run when beating Bygones Of Brid in the Morebattle at Kelso last month but his earlier defeat of Binocular in the Fighting Fifth at Newbury is top-class form and he relished the Festival experience when winning over further here last year. Hurricane Fly is undoubtedly useful but it's fairly easy to pick holes in this season's form on much softer ground while last year's runner-up Khyber Kim may be getting a bit long in the tooth now. Mille Chief held on well to land the Kingwell at Wincanton last month but appears to find little off the bridle and the Cheltenham hill is not a place for the faint-hearted.
Bygones of Brid (IRE) 10-1 (11-6) Close up, led 4 out, pressed 2 out, soon headed and ridden, no chance with winner, eased towards finish, 2nd of 9, 11l behind Peddlers Cross (11-10) at Kelso 2m 2f hdl (2) sft in Feb.
Clerk's Choice (IRE) 20-1 (11-4) Held up behind on outside, headway to challenge 2 out, soon every chance, ridden and one pace approaching last, no extra flat, 4th of 9, 8l behind Menorah (11-4) at Cheltenham 2m 1f hdl G2 (1) gs in Dec.
Dunguib (IRE) 8-11fav (11-12) Settled 3rd early, slight mistake 2nd, keen hold into 2nd after 3rd, mistake 4th, improved to challenge 2 out, soon led, pushed out before last, ridden run-in and kept on well, won at Gowran Park 2m hdl G2 (1) hvy in Feb beating Luska Lad (11-10) by 3 1/2l, 3 ran.
Hurricane Fly (IRE) 4-9fav (11-10) Tracked leader in 2nd, challenged entering straight, travelled well to lead before last, ridden and kept on well run-in, comfortably, won at Leopardstown 2m hdl G1 (1) sft in Jan beating Solwhit (11-10) by 3 1/2l, 5 ran.
Khyber Kim 5-2 (11-7) Held up in rear in touch, switched to race wide approaching 3rd, headway 3 out, soon driven and outpaced, ridden next, 8 lengths down in 4th and well held when mistake last, 4th of 6, 13l behind Binocular (11-7) at Kempton 2m hdl G1 (1) gs in Jan.
Menorah (IRE) 7-4fav (11-4) Held up in touch on inside, headway approaching 2 out, quickened to lead before last, ridden clear and well in command flat, won at Cheltenham 2m 1f hdl G2 (1) gs in Dec beating Cue Card (11-4) by 4 1/2l, 9 ran.
Mille Chief (FR) 15-8 (11-2) Tracked leading pair, went 2nd going well approaching 2 out, soon challenged, ridden approaching last, stayed on under pressure to lead narrowly flat, just held on, won at Wincanton 2m hdl G2 (1) gs in Feb beating Celestial Halo (11-6) by ns, 5 ran.
Oscar Whisky (IRE) 2-7fav (11-7) Chased leaders, went 2nd 4 out, led on bit after 3 out, not fluent next, ran on strongly, won at Ffos Las 2m hdl (2) gs in Feb beating Black Jack Blues (11-3) by 8l, 5 ran.
Overturn (IRE) 4-1 (11-6) Led, headed approaching 2 out, soon ridden and weakened, last of 5, 48l behind Mille Chief (11-2) at Wincanton 2m hdl G2 (1) gs in Feb.
Peddlers Cross (IRE) 1-6fav (11-10) Tracked leaders, went 2nd approaching 3 out, challenged on bit 2 out, soon led, ridden run-in, stayed on well, won at Kelso 2m 2f hdl (2) sft in Feb beating Bygones Of Brid (11-6) by 11l, 9 ran.
Thousand Stars (FR) 14-1 (11-10) Led, slight mistake 4th, ridden and challenged entering straight, headed before last, no extra and kept on same pace, 3rd of 5, 6l behind Hurricane Fly (11-10) at Leopardstown 2m hdl G1 (1) sft in Jan.