Nicky Henderson's runners in this Grade 1 always warrant respect and he's double-handed this year. Punjabi returns from a lengthy absence but it would be no surprise to see the former champion hurdler go well against younger rivals and he's unlikely to arrive here undercooked. But we prefer stablemate DARLAN to lay down a marker for Cheltenham in March by making a successful reappearance as you could argue that he didn't get the run of the race when only second to Cinders And Ashes in the Supreme Novices' Hurdle last season and the rest of his form was out of the top drawer. Cinders And Ashes was firmly put in his place by the ultra-tough Countrywide Flame in the Fighting Fifth at Newcastle and, though likely to be fitter here, may struggle to reverse that form while this is easily Dodging Bullets' toughest task to date. Get Me Out Here is arguably better over further and handicapper Raya Star may be a little out of his depth, though not as much as Mad Moose.
Cinders And Ashes 10-11fav (11-7) Held up in rear and in touch, headway on bit 3 out, chased winner before last, not quicken, 2nd of 4, 12l behind Countrywide Flame (11-7) at Newcastle 2m hdl G1 (1) hvy.
Countrywide Flame 11-4 (11-7) Tracked leaders in 3rd, hit 4 out, went 2nd before 3 out, led on bit before 2 out, stayed on strongly from last, won at Newcastle 2m hdl G1 (1) hvy beating Cinders And Ashes (11-7) by 12l, 4 ran.
Darlan 7-4fav (11-4) Held up mid-division, headway on inner from 4 out, challenged 2 out, led last, ridden and kept on strongly final 150 yards, eased near finish, won at Aintree 2m nov hdl G2 (1) gd in Apr beating Captain Conan (11-4) by 4l, 12 ran.
Dodging Bullets 5-4fav (11-7) Set steady pace, quickened before last, hit last, driven and stayed on run-in, won at Cheltenham 2m nov hdl G2 (1) gs in Nov beating River Maigue (11-0) by 1 1/2l, 8 ran.
Get Me Out Of Here (IRE) 7-1 (11-8) Tracked winner, lost place 3 out, driven and no impression before next, weakened before last, eased right down flat, last of 4, well behind Oscar Whisky (11-8) at Ascot 2m 3f hdl G2 (1) hvy in Nov.
Mad Moose (IRE) 66-1 (11-0) Held up in last trio, chased leaders briefly before 2 out, went moderate 4th between last 2, no chance with leaders, 4th of 7, 32l behind Zarkandar (11-4) at Cheltenham 2m 1f hdl G2 (1) hvy.
Punjabi 9-1 (11-12) Tracked leaders on inner, 5th 3 out, under pressure when mistake next, weakened, eased when beaten in straight, last of 11, 35l behind Hurricane Fly (11-12) at Punchestown 2m hdl G1 (1) gd in Apr '10.
Raya Star (IRE) 4-1 (11-4) Held up 4th and last in touch, went 2nd 3 out, outpaced approaching next, soon no chance with easy winner, 2nd of 4, 8l behind Oscar Whisky (11-8) at Ascot 2m 3f hdl G2 (1) hvy in Nov.