Lough Derg is sure to ensure that this is run at a good pace but David Pipe's gelding is hard to back with any confidence having been well beaten at Ascot last week and it is hard to get away from BIG BUCK'S, who is taken to win this before going on to better things, with the main danger rated as Duc De Regniere. Nicky Henderson's gelding did not progress as much as may have been anticipated over hurdles last term but showed a decent level of form early on in the season, including when winning this event 12 months ago. The seven-year-old comes from a yard that could not be in better heart at present and, having won well on his chasing debut on his reappearance at the beginning of the month, he has to be of interest back over hurdles. Alan King's Blazing Bailey was not at his best when last seen when a well held fourth behind Tazbar at Cheltenham in April but has claims on the pick of his form. However, both Blazing Bailey and Duc De Regniere are strictly held by the selection on running last season and Big Buck's has an obvious chance of making a winning return. The six-year-old failed to take to fences last season but showed much improved form back over hurdles with four wins including in the World Hurdle at Cheltenham and the Liverpool Hurdle at Aintree and he will take all the beating if anywhere near his best.
Big Buck's (FR) 5-6fav (11-10) Held up, pushed along after 4 out, soon chasing leaders, went 2nd 2 out, led after last, stayed on well, won at Aintree 3m hdl G2 (1) gd in Apr beating Mighty Man (11-2) by 3 1/2l, 10 ran.
Duc De Regniere (FR) Evensfav (11-2) Mostly 3rd, not fluent 8th, went 2nd after 4 out, strong challenge when left in lead, 3out, drew clear from next, won at Kempton 2m 4f grad ch (2) gd beating Battlecry (11-2) by 45l, 4 ran.
Lough Derg (FR) 9-1 (11-8) Led, driven and headed 3 out, rallied under pressure, weakened after 2 out, 5th of 8, 34l behind Zaynar (11-4) at Ascot 2m 3f hdl G2 (1) gd.
Blazing Bailey 5-2 (11-8) Tracked leaders, not fluent 1st, 2nd after 4th until not fluent 7th, soon ridden, relegated to last after 3 out, weakened approaching 2 out, 4th of 5, 31l behind Tazbar (11-8) at Cheltenham 3m hdl (2) gs in Apr.
Nacarat (FR) 11-2 (11-5) Led until approaching 4 out, soon weakened, 8th of 9, 37l behind Planet Of Sound (10-9) at Exeter 2m 1f hcp chs Grade 2 (1) gs.
No Refuge (IRE) 9-2 (11-0) Tended to jump right, chased leaders, pushed along 7th, ridden and outpaced 4 out, never on terms, 3rd of 6, 31l behind Fair Along (11-4) at Wetherby 3m 1f hdl G2 (1) gd in Oct.
Souffleur 25-1 (11-12) Held up, headway 9th, chased winner after 3 out, ridden next, no impression, 2nd of 15, 9l behind According To Pete (10-13) at Haydock 3m hcp hdl (2) gd in Nov '08.