FAGO, runner-up in a Grade 1 over fences at Auteuil in November, didn't jump with any real fluency on his chasing bow for Paul Nicholls at Newbury but should have learnt from that experience and can take this before heading for Cheltenham. He has a little bit to find with Majala on a line through Ohio Gold, who has finished runner-up to both, but has a huge amount of scope and receives 2lb from Tom George's dual winner who is also engaged at Newbury. His Excellency, runner-up to Shooters Wood in a Cheltenham handicap in December, finished tailed off over hurdles there last month but is undoubtedly capable of winning this at his best but the remaining trio will all need to make progress to test the principals, though Marshal Zhukhov looks a nice prospect.
Majala (FR) 5-2 (11-3) With leader, led 3rd, mistake 4 out, challenged 2 out, ran on strongly (one fence omitted), won at Haydock 2m nov chs (2) hvy in Dec beating Ohio Gold (10-12) by 8l, 5 ran.
Fago (FR) 5-4fav (11-4) Made all, not fluent 3rd (water), went left 2 out, clear when not fluent last, comfortably, won at Newbury 2m 1f nov chs (4) sft in Jan beating Ohio Gold (11-0) by 3 1/2l, 7 ran.
His Excellency (IRE) 16-1 (11-5) Held up towards rear, headway when not much room 2 out, soon chased leaders, weakened last, 13th of 15, 45l behind Mr Watson (10-3) at Cheltenham 2m 1f hcp hdl (2) hvy in Jan.
Act Of Kalanisi (IRE) 11-2 (11-4) Led until 6th, fell next, in a race won by Simonsig (11-0) at Ascot 2m 3f nov chs Grade 2 (1) hvy in Dec, 5 ran.
Marshal Zhukov (IRE) 2-1fav (11-12) Took keen hold, tracked leader until before 3rd, not fluent 6th, hit next, good headway to lead 3 out, went right next, came readily clear before last, easily, won at Taunton 2m hcp chs 0-135 (3) sft in Dec beating Ciceron (11-9) by 11l, 5 ran.
Sew On Target (IRE) 25-1 (10-4) Led to after 3rd, tracked leader, led again 11th, ridden and headed before 2 out, soon weakened, lost moderate 3rd after last, 4th of 13, 38l behind Vino Griego (10-12) at Cheltenham 2m 5f nov chs (2) hvy in Jan.