Echo Watt has taken very well to fences back from a year off, matching at least the pick of his hurdle form when runner-up at Lingfield on his chasing debut, before scoring by an impressive 22 lengths at Uttoxeter recently. He effortlessly took up the running in the straight in what was a gruelling test and, considering he won with any amount in hand, a 12 lb rise may not be enough to prevent him going in again here.
A smart winner over hurdles, including when landing the Grade 2 Kingwell Hurdle at Wincanton last term, Grand Sancy has been far from disgraced pitched into hot company over fences this season. He remains unexposed in this code and should be able to take advantage of this return to calmer waters to get off the mark over fences.
Thomas Darby was reverted back to hurdles last time after two unsuccessful attempts at chasing, and duly repaid that decision with a career-best performance to land an Ascot handicap. Last year’s Supreme Novices’ Hurdle runner-up looked right at home over the longer distance and will take plenty of beating here if running up to the same level.
Notre Pari got off the mark on his handicap debut at Aintree in December, beating mostly exposed sorts but doing so in a style that suggests there could be plenty more to come from him going forward. Pitched into the Lanzarote Hurdle at Kempton on his latest outing, he was in the process of running creditably and looked set to finish in third place before falling at the final flight. He is dropped significantly in class here and should have enough to hold off the progressive Black Gerry, who showed much-improved form to open his Rules account at the second time of asking last month.
Et Apres Thou shaped with plenty of encouragement when fifth at Taunton last time, catching the eye late on when finishing with running left. He was arguably unsuited by the relative emphasis on speed that day so, with this step up in trip looking a positive move, he is taken to get off the mark ahead of the low-mileage Jamesaintpatrick.
Alcala looked an interesting recruit to the hunter ranks on his debut in this sphere at Ludlow last month and probably would have opened his account at the first time of asking had he not departed at the last. He confirmed the promise of that run next time out, however, with a determined defeat of another above-average performer in this code, impressing with the way he came back after a mistake at the second last and in truth, was probably value for a bit extra, too. He clearly retains plenty of his old ability and looks capable of following up here, with stablemate Bob And Co looking the likeliest danger after his wide-margin victory at Bangor earlier this month.
Frenchy du Large probably made his effort earlier than ideal when runner-up at Sandown in November, meaning he has found only one too good on each of his three starts to date. He looks to have been found an ideal opportunity to open his account here though, and is difficult to oppose.