Monksland won this for Noel Meade in 2012 and Very Wood represents the yard here. He's always looked more of a staying type so the fact that he's been going very well over the minimum trip is a credit to him and he's no forlorn hope against the two Mullins entries, though Apache Jack needs to find massive improvement from his Punchestown maiden success. Ruby Walsh has chosen BRIAR HILL over Upazo despite his mount having to concede 7lb and it's not difficult to see why. He's already a relatively short price for several races at Cheltenham and, though last year's Festival Bumper winner hasn't jumped particularly well in his two successful runs over timber, he'll have learned plenty and should enhance his reputation. Upazo has done nothing wrong and is considered to still be progressing by connections though his overall profile can't match that of his stablemate.
Briar Hill (IRE) 1-4fav (11-10) Made all, slight mistake 3 out and pushed along, went clear from before last, stayed on well, won at Navan 2m 4f nov hdl Grade 1 (1) in Dec beating Azorian (11-10) by 5l, 2 ran.
Apache Jack (IRE) 5-4fav (11-12) Chased leader, mistake 1st, led 5th, ridden clear before last, kept on strongly, eased run-in, won at Punchestown 2m 4f mdn hdl in Dec beating Shemshal (11-12) by 12l, 17 ran.
Upazo (FR) Evensfav (11-6) Tracked leaders, went 2nd travelling smoothly from 2 out, led before last where left clear, stayed on well run-in, comfortably, won at Fairyhouse 2m hdl in Dec beating Fosters Cross (11-6) by 10l, 11 ran.
Very Wood (FR) 11-2 (11-7) Settled in mid-division, ridden in 6th approaching 2 out and no impression in 5th before last, kept on one pace, 5th of 10, 7l behind The Tullow Tank (11-10) at Fairyhouse 2m nov hdl Grade 1 (1) in Dec.