A small but select field though not the turnout the racecourse would have hoped for. Bothy is a tremendously consistent handicapper who has been supplemented but will need to find a bit extra in this grade. No four-year-old has been successful in the past ten years but there have been few of that age as tough and talented as Countrywide Flame. John Quinn's Triumph Hurdle winner just failed in his bid to add the Cesarewitch to his ever growing tally and wasn't concerned by the heavy ground when runner-up to Hollow Tree in Chepstow's Finale Hurdle in December. Donald McCain has won this for the past two years with Peddlers Cross and Overturn. He is represented here by rising star CINDERS AND ASHES, who can complete a hat-trick for the yard. The Supreme Novice Hurdle winner progressed at a rate of knots last season and his previous two victories before Cheltenham were gained on very heavy ground. He had Trifolium just under two lengths behind in the Supreme so there shouldn't be much between them on that evidence but the Irish raider ran a shocker on his reappearance at Punchestown and potential punters will need to forgive that.
Bothy 12-1 (11-1) Always prominent on outside, ridden to challenge after 2 out, came towards stands side rail and led before last, headed soon after, no extra flat, lost 3rd towards finish, 4th of 18, 4l behind Olofi (10-11) at Cheltenham 2m hcp hdl Grade 3 (1) sft in Nov.
Cinders And Ashes 10-1 (11-7) In touch on inside, hit 4th, effort 2 out, led narrowly when hit last, ridden and stayed on well flat, won at Cheltenham 2m nov hdl Grade 1 (1) gd in Mar beating Darlan (11-7) by 1 1/4l, 19 ran.
Countrywide Flame 4-1 (11-0) Tracked leader, left in narrow lead approaching 4th, not fluent 2 out, hard pressed when switched right between last 2, ridden and headed flat, kept on, held towards finish, 2nd of 11, 1l behind Grumeti (11-0) at Aintree 2m 4yo hdl Grade 1 (1) gs in Apr.
Trifolium (FR) 8-15fav (11-10) Tracked leader in 2nd, not fluent 1st & 4th, no chance with easy winner from early straight, kept on one pace, 2nd of 6, 32l behind Miley Shah (10-11) at Punchestown 2m hdl Grd 3 (1) hvy in Oct.