Five last-time-out winners speaks for itself in a cracking Listed contest. Zandy Man was always in control when making all to get off the mark at Ascot but is asked to concede weight all round under race conditions. Franciscan has done nothing wrong in landing two from two and the ex-Cumani inmate is fully deserving of a shot at this higher level, whereas King Rolfe does look as if he may have to improve considerably on his Stratford success. PURPLE BAY has won his last two - both ordinary novice hurdles - without coming out of a canter, clearly indicating that he has plenty more to offer. The same could be said of all his rivals but he's taken to make it three on the bounce here after those most taking performances. Oscar Hoof tackles hurdles for the first time after showing real promise in bumpers. He has an absence to overcome too but it is interesting that the champion trainer plunges him straight into Listed grade for his initial hurdling experience.
Zamdy Man 7-4fav (10-12) Made all, clear from 2nd, stayed on strongly, unchallenged, won at Ascot 2m nh nov hdl (3) gs beating Beachfire (11-4) by 11l, 7 ran.
Franciscan 7-4fav (11-5) Chased leaders, led approaching 2 out, soon driven clear, easily, won at Musselburgh 2m nh nov hdl (4) gd beating Clever Cookie (10-12) by 6l, 9 ran.
King Rolfe (IRE) 13-2 (11-0) Mid-division, headway after 2 out, went 2nd between last 2, ridden to challenge last, soon led, stayed on well flat, won at Stratford 2m mdn hdl (4) sft in Oct beating Sir Valentino (10-9) by 2 1/4l, 13 ran.
Purple Bay (IRE) 1-3fav (11-5) Always prominent, mistake 1st, led approaching 2 out, not fluent last, ran on well, won at Musselburgh 2m nh nov hdl (4) gd beating Biggar (10-5) by 7l, 8 ran.
Oscar Hoof (IRE) 5-6fav (11-8) Led until before halfway, led again over 2f out, hung left inside final furlong, kept on well, won at Market Rasen 2m 1f cond NH flat (6) gd in Apr beating Araku Valley (10-13) by 6l, 9 ran.