JUST ROB gets the narrow vote in this handicap hurdle with Mon Michel and Crazy Bold next best as Huguenot looks one to take on. Our selection actually ran a fair race in last season's Triumph Hurdle behind Zaynar despite being basically outclassed, but this is much more his level and he could oblige on his third hurdles start of the year. The gelding has won once on the level and once over timber and it may be significant that both victories came on soft ground so with today's conditions ideal he could take some beating, especially as aged five he could have more to come. Further encouragement is drawn from the fact that his conqueror last time has gone in again since and the yard remains in decent form. Mon Michel has ability, acts with cut and is now 4lbs below his last winning mark. He was one place behind Just Rob when they met at Stratford and both should prefer the ground as it is here so we expect placings to be confirmed, but a similarly solid run may result in Mon Michel finishing a good second with the form of that race looking good for the grade. Huguenot may attract his share of market support as he hails from a yard in form and is very well treated on his form over fences but all this one's career wins have come on considerably quicker ground and he may even be taken out; connections have avoided soft ground since his one effort on it resulted in a crushing defeat. With that in mind we'll leave him alone until some sunshine is spotted and instead nominate Crazy Bold as the biggest threat to the aforementioned pair. Tony Carroll has had a decent winter with his limited string and this one ran well off 99 when last seen whilst his proven ability to act on soft suggests another good run can be expected. Royal Max has run well in the face of some stiff tasks but as a result this mark of 120 makes life tough for his return to the handicap ranks, whilst Paul Nicholl's couldn't get a win out of Medicinal this season and a switch in yards is unlikely to change that. Elk Trail could yet surprise a few with a big run under ideal conditions especially if the first time cheek-pieces spark a return to his best, but much less guesswork is required with Just Rob and he gets the vote.
Medicinal (IRE) 20-1 (11-10) Made most until 5th, ridden after next, weakened approaching 3 out, tailed off, 9th of 11, well behind Mohayer (11-0) at Uttoxeter 2m hcp hdl 0-130 (3) hvy in Feb.
Royal Max (IRE) 22-1 (11-1) Tracked leader until after 4th, hit 6th, no extra from last, 4th of 10, 3 1/2l behind Super Kenny (10-12) at Stratford 2m 4yo nov hdl (3) gf in Mar.
Mon Michel (IRE) 16-1 (11-5) Held up towards rear, never dangerous, 4th of 10, 13l behind Elite Land (9-11) at Stratford 2m hcp hdl 0-125 (3) gf in Mar.
Just Rob 7-2 (11-2) Held up towards rear, headway approaching 6th, soon chasing leaders, one pace from last, 3rd of 10, 6l behind Elite Land (9-11) at Stratford 2m hcp hdl 0-125 (3) gf in Mar.
Elk Trail (IRE) 7-1 (11-9) Tracked leaders, raced keenly, not fluent 3rd or when losing place next, weakened 3 out, 7th of 8, 20l behind I've Been Framed (11-2) at Huntingdon 2m hcp hdl 0-115 (4) gs in Mar.
Huguenot (IRE) 8-1 (9-12) Prominent, pulled hard, led 3rd, hit 6th, soon headed, hit next, weakened 3 out, 8th of 10, well behind Consigliere (11-2) at Newbury 2m 1f hcp chs 0-145 (2) gs in Nov.
Crazy Bold (GER) 7-1 (11-11) Held up, chased leaders 6th, not fluent 2 out, soon weakened, mistake last, 4th of 12, 15l behind Miss Ladybird (11-10) at Hereford 2m 1f nov hcp hdl 0-100 (4) gf in Sep.