BIG BUCK'S may well prove to be the greatest staying hurdler of all time and could dominate this division for many years to come; he's given a confident vote to take care of old rival Karabak and the unexposed Sentry Duty. Our selection needs little introduction as the reigning staying champion having landed this race a year ago. He'll not be sent off anything like the same price today, but that's because he's been unbeaten since and if anything has looked even better this year. He works with Master Minded and Kauto Star at home and by all accounts makes them both go; Paul Nicholls has always thought he's got all the talent in the world. It's easy to forget he's only just turned seven so there could yet be a bundle of improvement to come which would spell big trouble for any pretenders, of whom the likely forecast linker is Karabak. Alan King's charge ran well at the festival last year and has come forward again this term, taking second behind Big Buck's last time. He wasn't beaten all that far that day at Newbury but that doesn't tell the whole tale as Big Buck's cruised past his rivals and won as he liked - the feeling is he'll find even more if asked to. Still, Karabak should take care of Sentry Duty and Tidal Bay in the battle for third. Nicky Henderson's charge steps up to this trip for the first time and shapes as though he'll stay but this is a very tough place to find out, although the horse has always gone well fresh and he's sensibly been kept back for this. He can beat Tidal Bay who was once good enough to win an Arkle, but he's since gone off the boil over fences in turn almost forcing Howard Johnson to send him back over timber. That move paid dividends as he won here last time out but that grade two event was a substandard renewal and we've still got slight doubts over his stamina in a truly run championship race. Even so, he should confirm form with Time For Rupert who was well behind in second that day although this gelding deserves praise for having made such rapid improvement this season. Katchit won the Champion a couple of years back but Alan King has always said he'll get this trip, but this diminutive sort is hard to fancy on the strength of his form this year; indeed he's not found the winners' enclosure since that memorable day back in 2008. Lie Forrit was backed into favouritism for the race won by Tidal Bay last time, an indication as to the regard in which he's held and Willie Amos' charge had looked good earlier in the season, but he was pulled up and has a big cloud hanging over him. Fair Along has seen his best days and surely can't get in the frame so of more interest each-way is Cousin Vinny who looked a world beater when winning the Champion Bumper a couple of years back. Things haven't gone to plan since, including a quickly aborted attempt over fences, but he's got the latent ability to serve it up to these if back to his best and seeing out the distance. The battle for the places could be intensely competitive and there are plenty with claims of fighting in it, but there should only be one winner and that horse is Big Buck's.
Big Buck's (FR) 1-2fav (11-7) Tracked leaders, pushed along approaching 3 out, headway to lead after 2 out, pushed out run-in, readily, won at Newbury 3m hdl G1 (1) hvy in Dec beating Karabak (11-7) by 3 1/2l, 8 ran.
Cape Tribulation 4-1 (11-8) Held up in last, closed 5th, squeezed along after 3 out, no impression approaching last, last of 4, 10l behind Medermit (11-8) at Haydock 2m hdl G2 (1) sft in Jan.
Cousin Vinny (IRE) 4-1 (11-10) Held up, some progress to chase leaders 4 out, slow jump next and lost touch with leaders, no impression from 2 out, 5th of 8, 22l behind Citizen Vic (11-10) at Leopardstown 2m 5f nov chs G1 hvy in Feb.
Ebadiyan (IRE) 4-1 (11-4) Raced in 2nd, pushed along halfway, ridden 5 out, soon weakened, 6th of 8, 44l behind War Of Attrition (11-8) at Navan 2m 5f hdl G2 sft in Feb.
Fair Along (GER) 9-1 (11-8) Chased leaders, challenged and every chance 2 out, soon ridden and weakened well before last, 7th of 13, 42l behind Tidal Bay (11-0) at Cheltenham 3m hdl G2 (1) sft in Jan.
Karabak (FR) 14-1 (11-7) Held up towards rear, headway approaching 2 out, chased winner after last, kept on same pace, 2nd of 8, 3 1/2l behind Big Buck's (11-7) at Newbury 3m hdl G1 (1) hvy in Dec.
Katchit (IRE) 8-1 (11-0) Held up towards rear, steady headway from 3 out, chased leading pair well before last, stayed on gamely to press for 2nd near finish, no chance with winner, 3rd of 13, 5l behind Tidal Bay (11-0) at Cheltenham 3m hdl G2 (1) sft in Jan.
Lie Forrit (IRE) 11-4fav (11-4) Always towards rear, never really travelled, pushed along 7th, struggling 9th, beaten when mistake 3 out, tailed off when pulled up before last, in a race won by Tidal Bay (11-0) at Cheltenham 3m hdl G2 (1) sft in Jan, 13 ran.
Oscar Dan Dan (IRE) 8-11fav (11-10) Held up in 3rd/4th, ridden along in last after 4 out, mistake next, no impression in last straight, last of 4, 18l behind War Of Attrition (11-3) at Gowran Park 3m hdl G2 hvy in Jan.
Powerstation (IRE) 7-4 (11-8) Raced 3rd/4th, closer in 2nd 3 out, soon ridden, kept on same pace in 2nd straight, 2nd of 4, 4l behind War Of Attrition (11-3) at Gowran Park 3m hdl G2 hvy in Jan.
Sentry Duty (FR) 9-2 (11-8) Held up in close 3rd, hit 3rd and 4th, hit 7th, blundered 2 out, went 2nd travelling strongly before last, nudged along to lead towards finish, very readily, won at Cheltenham 2m 4f hdl (2) sft in Jan beating Katchit (11-4) by 2 3/4l, 3 ran.
Tidal Bay (IRE) 14-1 (11-0) Held up towards rear, headway 3 out, 3rd going well soon after next, led approaching last, carried head high and edged left, stayed on strongly flat, won at Cheltenham 3m hdl G2 (1) sft in Jan beating Time For Rupert (11-4) by 5l, 13 ran.
Time For Rupert (IRE) 11-2 (11-4) Always front rank, led approaching 3 out, pressed 2 out, ridden and headed before last, no impression on winner and just held on for 2nd, 2nd of 13, 5l behind Tidal Bay (11-0) at Cheltenham 3m hdl G2 (1) sft in Jan.
War Of Attrition (IRE) 7-1 (11-8) Made all, ridden before 2 out, 2 length advantage before last, strongly pressed from run-in, stayed on well under pressure, all out, won at Navan 2m 5f hdl G2 sft in Feb beating Mourad (11-1) by hd, 8 ran.