The strongly supported Loughan offered something to work with when fifth, not beaten far, in a slowly-run all-weather bumper on his debut, and he displayed improved form to finish third at Huntingdon on his first start over hurdles. He moved into contention stylishly at Huntingdon but was let down by his inexperience, running green when asked for his effort, and he could be a different proposition with that outing under his belt. He remains open to plenty of progress.
This is a trappy contest but Sackett edges the vote after running well for a long way in the Sussex National at Plumpton last time. Sackett was eventually pulled up at Plumpton but he shaped as if in good form until paying the price for some uncharacteristic mistakes, his rider calling it a day after clouting the third-last. He is a strong stayer, drops in class and is on a fair mark, so he should go close under Richard Johnson.
Sastruga ran poorly at Warwick last time, when reportedly unsuited by the sharp track, but he was an eye-catching second at Uttoxeter on his handicap debut and is worth another chance. He shaped like a well-handicapped horse at Uttoxeter and, with just five runs under his belt, remains open to further improvement, particularly over this sort of trip.
Ballybreen has been a different proposition since being fitted with headgear, winning three handicap chases and a handicap hurdle from five outings. He is clearly thriving at present and justified strong support to score over hurdles at Taunton last week impressing with how much he found in the home straight to forge clear. He is only 3 lb higher here and should prove difficult to beat.
Jurys Out finished on the up over hurdles last season, scoring at Carlisle before running creditably in defeat at Market Rasen. He was in the process of running well on his chasing debut here in November, seemingly set for second when stumbling and unseating rider at the third-last, and he has to be of interest off the same mark. The seven-year-old remains open to plenty of improvement in this sphere and can prove a cut above these rivals, while testing conditions will not be a problem.
The Edgar Wallace has finished placed on both outings in bumpers and sets the clear standard here. He travelled best at Doncaster last time, finding only a useful prospect too strong, but he pulled well clear of his other rivals. This looks a good opportunity for him to get off the mark. Irish point winner Ocean Drifter looks the most interesting of those making their debut under Rules.