This sharp track suits the attacking style of Celestial Halo and he's twice finished second in this race. However, he makes his seasonal reappearance today and Paul Nicholls has much better claims with ZARKANDAR. He was giving 16lb to Balder Success when beating him by seven lengths in the Elite Hurdle over course and distance in November and has won another Grade 2 at Cheltenham since when champion hurdler Rock On Ruby was back in third. Raya Star has proved himself at this level this year and easily has the beating of Monte Cavallo on Ascot running earlier this season. Khyber Kim was a smart hurdler in his heyday but has had his problems over the last couple of years and would probably struggle to win this even at his best.
Balder Succes (FR) 8-1 (11-1) Held up towards rear on outside, headway 6th, every chance 3 out, weakened approaching last, 8th of 14, 27l behind Medinas (10-10) at Ffos Las 2m 4f ltd hcp hdl (2) hvy.
Celestial Halo (IRE) 50-1 (11-10) Tracked leader until ridden after 5th, losing place when jumped slowly 2 out, soon behind, 9th of 10, 17l behind Rock On Ruby (11-10) at Cheltenham 2m hdl G1 (1) gd in Mar.
Zarkandar (IRE) 6-5fav (11-4) Always prominent, led narrowly before 3rd, headed briefly and driven 2 out, ridden last, held on well under pressure flat, won at Cheltenham 2m 1f hdl G2 (1) hvy in Dec beating Grandouet (11-8) by 2l, 7 ran.
Raya Star (IRE) 8-1 (11-7) Held up in 5th, headway after 3 out, effort and every chance 2 out, soon ridden, stayed on to take 2nd approaching last, no impression with winner flat, 2nd of 7, 4 1/2l behind Darlan (11-7) at Kempton 2m hdl G1 (1) hvy in Dec.
Khyber Kim 16-1 (11-7) Held up behind, headway and mistake 4 out, pushed along and weakened before 3 out, 6th of 11, 41l behind Big Buck's (11-7) at Aintree 3m hdl G1 (1) gs in Apr '11.
Monte Cavallo (SAF) 7-1 (10-13) In touch, not fluent 4th, effort 2 out, weakening when hampered last, 5th of 12, 17l behind Petit Robin (11-5) at Sandown 2m Listed hcp hdl (1) sft in Dec.