A small but very select field in which Flemenstar and SIR DES CHAMPS put their Cheltenham aspirations on the line with the latter getting the vote. The former, beaten by Bog Warrior on his chasing debut in 2011, won his next seven races including three at the highest level. He attempted today's trip for the first time over regulation fences in the Lexus over this track and trip and though travelling like the winner for most of the way was run out of it close home by Tidal Bay and First Lieutenant. The selection, whose jumping wasn't particularly inspiring, stayed on strongly to finish just a short-head behind in fourth and Willie Mullins will be expecting his other entry Quel Esprit to ensure a strong gallop. Bog Warrior has been nursed back to form over hurdles and is by no means out of this but Joncol will need to regain his very best form to get involved which appears unlikely.
Bog Warrior (IRE) 8-11fav (11-6) Made all, asserted after 2 out and jumped left last, ridden and kept on well run-in, won at Gowran Park 3m hdl G2 (1) hvy in Jan beating Zaidpour (11-10) by 3 1/2l, 4 ran.
Flemenstar (IRE) 5-4fav (11-10) Tracked leaders in 4th, went 2nd 4 out, travelled best to lead entering straight, ridden run-in and kept on under pressure, headed final 100 yards and dropped to 3rd, 3rd of 9, 3/4l behind Tidal Bay (11-10) at Leopardstown 3m chs G1 (1) sft in Dec.
Joncol (IRE) 7-1 (11-3) Tracked leaders mainly 4th, slight mistake 6th and mistake 4 out, soon ridden and no impression in moderate 3rd 2 out, kept on one pace, 3rd of 8, 18l behind Quito De La Roque (11-10) at Thurles 2m 4f chs Grd 2 (1) hvy in Jan.
Quel Esprit (FR) 14-1 (10-3) 11th of 18, 15l behind Thousand Stars (10-12) at Auteuil(FR) 2m 5f Grd 2 hdl sft in May.
Sir Des Champs (FR) 9-4 (11-10) Chased leaders in 6th, mistake 10th, ridden in 5th when not fluent 2 out, went 3rd approaching last, kept on same pace under pressure run-in, 4th of 9, 3/4l behind Tidal Bay (11-10) at Leopardstown 3m chs G1 (1) sft in Dec.