Veteran Marked Man appears to retain plenty of enthusiasm and wasn't beaten far off today's mark at Towcester last month having won at the same track earlier. He sets a fair standard and is preferred to Colin Tizzard's pair Persian Run and Justabout on the prevailing going. Key Cutter can't be ignored but generally struggles to get his head in front so preference is for FORTY FIVE. He's still a maiden over fences but the handicapper is finally beginning to show him a bit of leniency and his latest third at Ludlow suggests that first win isn't far away now.
Key Cutter (FR) 4-1 (11-12) Led until 8th, led after next, headed 10th, hit 12th and ridden along, outpaced from next, stayed on approaching last, soon went 2nd, no impression on winner, 2nd of 7, 7l behind Ballagio (10-12) at Kempton 3m hcp chs 0-115 (4) gd in Oct.
Forty Five (IRE) 8-1 (11-4) Held up towards rear, headway before 12th, chased leaders before 5 out, ridden before 2 out, kept on same pace, 3rd of 9, 11l behind Rockiteer (11-9) at Ludlow 3m hcp chs 0-120 (4) gd in Nov.
Persian Run (IRE) 16-1 (11-6) Held up in rear, hit 9th, reminders and struggling before 10th, behind 11th, pulled up before 13th, in a race won by Runshan (11-2) at Stratford 3m 4f hcp chs 0-120 (4) gd in Oct, 8 ran.
Justabout 10-3 (10-9) With leader until 7th, soon pushed along, left 2nd 11th, mistake 13th, weakened from 3 out, 4th of 5, 35l behind Roseneath (11-6) at Hereford 3m 1f hcp chs 0-125 (3) gd in Nov.
Marked Man (IRE) 11-2 (11-3) Tracked leaders, led 4th until 5th, led 6th until 7th, led 9th, ridden and headed approaching last, led flat, headed towards finish, 2nd of 7, 1 1/2l behind Pingaro De La Vire (11-5) at Towcester 2m 6f hcp 0-100 (5) gd in Nov.