With Musical Weld and Phoenix Des Mottes having little to recommend either of them, the finish should be fought out by the other three runners with BUSKER ROYAL looking hard to oppose. Nicky Henderson's gelding was useful over hurdles and looked a decent recruit to the novice chasing ranks when successful in good fashion here last time and he can follow up. Ben De Haan's Nom de Guerre is only rated 2lbs inferior to the selection on official BHA ratings and has had five runs over fences so has the experience but he seems a shade high in the ratings at present and may struggle to get the better of Nicky Henderson's runner. Alan King's Georgian King was marginally better than the selection over hurdles but was well held on his chasing debut and Busker Royal looks the one to beat.
Busker Royal 2-1 (11-2) Raced keenly, tracked leaders, not fluent 6th, pecked 11th, not fluent next, went 2nd 4 out, jumped left and not fluent 2 out, soon driven, 1 length down when left clear last, won at Fakenham 2m 5f noc chs (3) gf in Oct beating No Panic (11-8) by 29l, 6 ran.
Georgian King 5-2 (11-0) Held up in touch, not fluent 2nd, headway 8th, soon chasing leaders, weakened before 4f out, 4th of 9, 44l behind No Panic (11-0) at Hereford 3m 1f beg chase (4) gf in Jun.
Musical Weld 40-1 (10-13) Took keen hold, chased clear winner, slow jump 3rd, dropped to 3rd at 6th, behind from 8th, soon in rear, tailed off, 3rd of 4, well behind Qulinton (11-2) at Southwell 2m 4f beg chs (4) gf.
Nom de Guerre (IRE) 8-1 (11-3) Always in rear, mistake 10th, struggling 12th, tailed off, 5th of 7, well behind French Opera (11-3) at Ascot 2m 3f beg chs (3) gd in Oct.
Phoenix Des Mottes (FR) 16-1 (11-10) Held up in rear, mistake 2nd, not fluent 7th, blundered 9th, given reminder, some headway 14th, soon weakened, behind when pulled up before 4 out, in a race won by Good Harvest (11-10) at Worcester 2m 7f nov hcp chs 0-105 (4) gs in Oct, 11 ran.