Heavy ground not ideal when beaten 15l by Sizing Europe last month but had previously looked in good heart despite his advancing years. Spring ground saw him win this race in 2010, and assuming his jumping is a touch more fluent than 12 months ago, he looks the main challenger to Sizing Europe. Trainer Colm Murphy has proven himself to another level this year with the exploits of Voler La Vedette so expect his charge to be at his peak here.
Bold second in last-year's Arkle (considering he helped force a strong pace) but form shown in two starts this season not quite enough to get rivals quaking in their boots. Although not always the most convincing finisher of his races, it's hard to fault his record of eight wins from 12 starts and suspicion is that his best will be on show here with his trainer Nicky Henderson a master of getting horses to peak at this week (39 Cheltenham Festival winners).
Well-beaten at the time when falling in the VC Chase (Finian's Rainbow second) and subsequent third to Riverside Theatre not breathtaking, however it's worth remembering that his Ascot record reads 0-5, as opposed to 3-7 here. Well-held in this race back in 2009 however and although the ground is in his favour, he is unlikely to gain his first Grade One win at the ninth attempt.
I'm So Lucky
Hardly a failure having won over £200,000 in prize money, but has continually come up short in this grade. Recent third behind easy winner Sprinter Sacre a solid effort, and better than his form before a 25l secenth in this race last year, but surely playing for place money at the very very best. Tongue-tie and blinkers combo retained (has worn cheek-pieces in the past).
Very exciting recruit from France (being a half-brother to superstar Kauto Star) and made an immediate impression on his debut for Paul Nicholls when a very easy winner at Down Royal. Subsequent second to Sizing Europe in Tingle Creek a fine effort considering he was outpaced for a fair way but then weakened very quickly at Ascot two months later. That track doesn't suit all horses, and interesting that connections chance their arm here, but would surely have preferred a stiffer test on more testing ground.
Fine novice chase campaign included three Grade One wins, although all on home soil in Ireland and arguably lucky on one occasion when his main rival fell two out. Outpaced when third to Captain Chris 12 months ago in the Arkle, and worry must be that a similar scenario will occur here on quick ground. However always highly-thought-of by his trainer Noel Meade and interesting that connections are happy to pitch him straight in at the deep end on his return from a long time off with injury, including an issue with ligaments in his leg.
Imperious over two miles for the past couple of seasons, on all types of ground, but most impressive performances have come when ridden aggressively on quick going over this course and distance. Demolished Big Zeb in the Tied Cottage Chase last month, and hard to see who will be able to cope with him here if in the same mood. Has won five of his six starts in England and likely to add to that record if his jumping holds up. Jockey Andrew Lynch has developed a fine partnership with him, winning seven of nine starts together when paired up over less than 2m4f.
Surely the most disappointing high-profile horse of this season, Philip Hobbs' chestnut looked to have the world at his feet 12 months ago when chasing home Noble Prince here in the Jewson before winning at both the Aintree and Punchestown festivals. However looked a tearaway hoodlum when going off far too fast in his first two runs of this campaign, before running better when held-up at Kempton when second to Finian's Rainbow. Didn't look right when a subsequent disappointment at Ascot and now has plenty to prove, both physically and mentally. Has had two wind operations.
SIZING EUROPE appears to have a spring in his step when returning to this track, although he wouldn't need to improve on the form shown already this season to have this race wrapped up turning for home. Master Minded won back-to-back renewals last decade but Paul Nicholls doesn't have the same ammunition over two miles these days, so it's perfectly fair to view last-year's runner-up (and 2010 champion) Big Zeb as the main danger to Henry De Bromhead's ace, whilst Finian's Rainbow is perfectly capable of producing a career-best effort but would probably need to in order to emerge victorious.