Howard Johnson won this race last year with Astarador (runs over fences in preceding race) and he relies on Gringo today; he doesn't look as obvious a winner and it may pay to side with AMAZING KING assuming that the ground doesn't deteriorate. Rhys Flint comes in for the ride for the first time and he can implement his valuable 7lb claim on the selection. The horse was raised a whopping 16lb in the weights for a cosy win here in November but didn't run badly under a big weight subsequently at Doncaster. With the good ground more in his favour today he looks sure to put up a bold display. Richard Fahey looks a man to be scared of here; his duo race off feather weights and each comes here in good form, with perhaps Bolodenka looking the most likely of his runners to success. Folk Tune is not the most consistent but put it all in to win nicely last time, Solent is a very decent dual-performer, whilst European Dream is starting to look fairly handicapped now off a mark of 125. Hibiki and Mohayer are two more for consideration in a very competitive renewal, but it is Amazing King who can carry the loot back to North Yorkshire.
Splurge (IRE) 14-1 (10-4) Held up, towards rear after 3 out, headway into mid-division next, progress on outer early straight, 7th last, stayed on, 4th of 29, 1 1/2l behind Penny's Bill (9-7) at Leopardstown 2m hcp hdl 0-145 gs in Jan.
Bywell Beau (IRE) 2-1fav (11-2) Soon led, mistake 4th, headed 5 out, soon driven and beaten, 6th of 11, 13l behind Role On (10-13) at Carlisle 2m beg chs (4) hvy in Nov.
Amazing King (IRE) 10-1 (11-9) Chased leader, weakened 3 out, 5th of 9, 41l behind Charlie Crab (11-3) at Doncaster 2m hcp hdl 0-145 (2) sft in Dec.
Marcel (FR) 33-1 (11-4) Held up, pushed along after 4 out, soon weakened, last of 8, well behind Songe (11-6) at Haydock 2m hdl Grd 2 (1) sft in Jan.
Hibiki (IRE) 10-1 (10-9) Held up towards rear, headway under pressure after 3 out, ridden to challenge on outside, not fluent last, strong challenge flat, just failed, 2nd of 14, shd behind Art Professor (10-10) at Ascot 2m hcp hdl 0-140 (2) gd in Nov.
European Dream (IRE) 20-1 (11-4) Held up in rear, blundered 5th, soon pushed along, outpaced from next, 5th of 8, 26l behind Songe (11-6) at Haydock 2m hdl Grd 2 (1) sft in Jan.
Mohayer (IRE) 2-1 (11-0) Chased leaders, blundered 3rd, chased winner 3 out, challenged going well when fell last, remounted, 4th of 5, well behind Quicuyo (10-7) at Ayr 2m beg chs (2) hvy in Dec.
Lazy Darren 16-1 (11-9) Mid-division, ridden approaching 7th, driven and weakened from 2 out, 10th of 17, 23l behind Greenbelt (10-6) at Catterick 2m 3f hcp hdl 0-130 (3) gs in Jan.
Los Nadis (GER) 16-1 (11-5) Held up, outpaced 3 out, never on terms, 8th of 15, 30l behind Prosecco (10-9) at Ayr 2m hcp hdl 0-125 (3) sft in Jan.
Solent (IRE) 3-1 (11-5) Raced keenly, led, soon clear, hit 2nd, blundered 3 out, ridden and headed next, soon beaten, 4th of 11, 20l behind Teddy's Reflection (10-12) at Fontwell 2m 2f nov hdl (4) sft in Dec.
Folk Tune (IRE) 3-1 (10-9) Held up in touch, headway from approaching 3 out to chase leaders next, ridden and led last, driven out run-in, won at Musselburgh 2m 4f hcp hdl 0-135 (3) gd in Dec beating Quick Will (10-4) by 2 1/2l, 9 ran.
Gringo 15-8fav (11-0) Held up towards rear, headway and close up 3 out, ridden approaching next, soon one pace, 5th of 9, 14l behind Folk Tune (10-9) at Musselburgh 2m 4f hcp hdl 0-135 (3) gd in Dec.
Along The Nile 17-2 (10-8) Held up, ridden after 4 out, headway and every chance 2 out, weakened from next, 4th of 9, 12l behind Folk Tune (10-9) at Musselburgh 2m 4f hcp hdl 0-135 (3) gd in Dec.
Bolodenka (IRE) 11-4fav (11-8) Mid-division, every chance 2 out, ridden approaching and hit last, one pace run-in, 2nd of 12, 3 1/2l behind Kyber (10-5) at Musselburgh 2m hcp hdl 0-115 (4) gd in Dec.
Joe Jo Star 7-4fav (10-2) Held up, smooth headway to lead 2 out, shaken up approaching last, kept on well, comfortably, won at Musselburgh 2m hcp hdl 0-125 (3) gd in Dec beating Sun King (10-13) by 3l, 8 ran.