Two very promising novices lock horns here with CLOSE TOUCH narrowly preferred to African Gold. The Queen's gelding tackles this longer trip for the first time but his form over 2m is working out well with Ascot runner-up Fair Trade landing a very well-contested jumpers' bumper last month. He still holds an entry in the Supreme Novices' Hurdle. African Gold showed plenty of resolution to win a handicap over 2m5f at Newbury last time but gives the impression he'll do even better over 3m while Saints And Sinners needs to improve again on a recent course and distance second if he's to trouble the likely principals. Mcllhatton may need more time and that comment also applies to points winners Classical Twist and Minella Fifty as well as winning bumper Warden Hill.
African Gold (IRE) 4-1 (10-0) Chased clear leader, cosed approaching 3 out, led 2 out, hung left soon after, driven out, won at Newbury 2m 5f hcp hdl (2) hvy in Dec beating El Dancer (10-4) by nk, 9 ran.
Close Touch 4-7fav (11-5) Tracked leaders, went 2nd when not fluent 6th, led approaching last, driven and stayed on well, won at Ascot 2m hdl (3) sft in Nov beating Fair Trade (11-0) by 2 1/2l, 6 ran.
Saints And Sinners (IRE) 25-1 (11-9) Led, ridden and pressed before 2 out, kept on and headed towards finish, 2nd of 19, nk behind Harvey's Hope (11-9) at Doncaster 2m 3f hcp hdl 0-120 (4) gs in Jan.
Champagne N Caviar (IRE) 5-1 (11-2) Held up in mid-division, headway on inside 8f out, ridden 3f out, weakened over 1f out, 4th of 16, 16l behind Werenearlyoutofit (10-13) at Warwick 2m NH flat (6) sft in Dec.
Classical Twist (IRE) 5-1 (11-7) Pr, ld 2out, quickened clr app last, won at Belharbour 2m ire ptp sft in Feb '12 beating Band Of Blood (11-7) by 2l, 11 ran.
Dare To Endeavour 16-1 (11-5) Tracked leader, pushed along over 5f out, soon lost place, tailed off, last of 10, well behind Anteros (11-5) at Chepstow 2m NH flat (6) hvy in Jan.
Deportation 200-1 (11-2) Held up towards rear, weakened before 5 out, tailed off, 9th of 17, well behind Up And Go (11-2) at Wetherby 2m 4f NH nov hdl (4-7yo) (4) sft in Jan.
Discoverie 100-1 (10-11) Held up towards rear, ridden and weakened after 6th, tailed off, 7th of 11, well behind Veloce (11-4) at Ayr 2m nh nov hdl (4) sft in Jan.
Executive Strike 200-1 (10-13) Led to 3rd, weakened 4th, tailed off before 3 out, last of 16, well behind If In Doubt (11-4) at Towcester 2m nov hdl (4) hvy in Jan.
Irish By Name (IRE) 50-1 (10-7) Held up towards rear, ridden after 3 out, never a factor, 7th of 11, 29l behind Smadynium (11-2) at Sedgefield 2m 1f nov hdl (4) hvy in Dec.
Mcllhatton (IRE) 25-1 (11-0) Tracked leaders, went 2nd 6th until after 3 out, no extra in 4th before last, 5th of 12, 18l behind Many Clouds (11-0) at Ascot 2m 3f NH mdn hdl (3) sft in Nov.
Minella Fifty (IRE) 5-4 (11-7) Made all, chall gng to last, so strongly, won at Tralee 3m ire ptp hvy in Mar beating Kestrel (11-7) by 3l, 11 ran.
Warden Hill (IRE) 5-1 (11-0) Held up mid-division, headway over 3f out, led entering final furlong, kept on well, won at Kempton 2m Maiden Nat Hunt Flat (4-6yo) (AW) (6) std in Dec beating Tradewinds (10-9) by 2 1/2l, 11 ran.