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12.40 - Foundation Developments Novices' Handicap Hurdle (2m7½f)
A daunting start for punters as this looks to be wide open stuff. Soyouthinksoagain scored without much fuss at Stratford in October and the Skelton's will be hopeful there is more to come, though an 11lb rise in the weights does pose a question.
Tide Times, Huntsman Job, Blame The Game, Poppa Poutine and Freddy Fanatapan are the other last-time-out winners in the field and each has merit.
HUGOS OTHER HORSE represents top connections and while the winners aren't quite flowing as they were in the autumn for Paul Nicholls and Harry Cobden, he's still got potential for better after finishing second at Taunton (3m, good) and Wincanton (2m5½f, good to soft) in his first two handicaps. He should give a decent account once more back up in distance.
1.15 - Injured Jockeys Fund Graduation Chase (2m5f)
This looks a match between CARIBEAN BOY and Itchy Feet on paper, unless Dashel Drasher can improve considerably on his return to action at Haydock four weeks ago. Jeremy Scott's charge showed useful form last season in three chase starts, but he was too free on return (had wind surgery this summer) and was well fended off in a race won by Master Tommytucker.
Commanche Red was a further six-plus lengths behind him on Merseyside having been pulled up on his comeback. Both, therefore, are facing tough challenges on Saturday.
Itchy Feet won his first two over fences last season before unshipping his rider in the Marsh Novices' Chase at Cheltenham. He ran a sound third in the Old Roan at Aintree on his return and has since chased home Imperial Aura in a Grade 2 over this C&D. The impressive winner had that race in his grasp all the way up the home straight as Itchy Feet bypassed a retreating Real Steel for second spot after the jumping was done. That may be his issue now. His fencing has not looked assured and any errors here will be costly. If he's within sight of the lead over the last, he can have a say given how he ran through the line last time, but he'll have to jump better.
Pressure will be applied in that department from Caribean Boy in all probability. The French import is 2-3 over fences since joining Nicky Henderson and he dispatched Fiddlerontheroof (runs at Ascot on Friday) in good style at Newbury on his seasonal comeback.
He did that with something to spare and his jumping looked very assured. He beat a useful rival and is likely to build on it. Daryl Jacob's mount can assert his authority over the obstacles en route to further success.
1.50 - 'For The Love Of Racing' Handicap Chase (2m3f)
With the Tom Symonds team in such blistering form, easy Exeter winner Saint De Vassy will go on plenty of shortlists. He's lightly-raced over fences and should take this step up in distance in his stride.
Kapgarry was last spotted winning at Stratford in March over further, a race where he was well suited by the omission of four fences, but he's got more on his plate now.
Any money for Not Another Muddle would be notable, while Saint Sonnet may find this less taxing than his two Cheltenham assignments lately.
The most intriguing contender is top-weight MENGLI KHAN on debut for Nicky Henderson. His time with Gordon Elliott ended with a romp at Ballinrobe over a similar trip in September and he can go well having left Gigginstown House Stud's ownership to move to Seven Barrows since.
He was a little bit frustrating at times but he twice placed at the Cheltenham Festival in a Supreme and Marsh Novices' Chase. He also ran into some smart types as a chaser - Defi Du Seuil, Le Richebourg, Kalashnikov, The Storyteller - and that most recent win was a step in the right direction.
A mark of 150 is workable and, now with Ascot's leading trainer/jockey over the last five seasons, he's got valid claims.
Drumcliff ran well here last month over C&D when not ideally suited by the omission of the final fence. Harry Fry's charge is worth considering as a place contender with Amy O'Connor taking off a handy 5lb in the plate now.
2.25 - Porsche Long Walk Hurdle (Grade 1, 3m)
The first Grade 1 staying hurdles event of the season and also the final top-class race on British soil before Christmas Day, the Long Walk Hurdle is a long-established event on the National Hunt calendar.
Amid all the chatter of Cheltenham Festival focus taking over the jumps programme, let it not go unnoticed that a field of ten assembled here includes the pre-eminent force in the staying hurdles division in Paisley Park, the pretender to the throne in Thyme Hill, former winners of this race in The World's End and Thistlecrack and a mare from the top drawer in ROKSANA.
Last month's Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury is the obvious starting point. Thyme Hill held off Paisley Park to stamp his credentials on this division. It was an important success for Philip Hobbs' charge, who was unlucky in the Albert Bartlett at Cheltenham in March (fourth), but Emma Lavelle and Paisley Park's legion of fans would have been relatively pleased too.
That was his first run since a shock defeat at Cheltenham in March, where a fibrillating heart was identified as a contributing factor. He appeared to be on good terms with himself and is expected to come on markedly for the run.
A length and a half split the pair and, with Aidan Coleman's mount 3lb better off here, a fascinating rematch should ensue. There are plenty of dangers lurking, however, and this is no duel.
Main Fact has become a winning machine for David Pipe, with a streak of nine on the Flat/over hurdles in 2020. Testing ground will suit him but this is a whole lot tougher than last month's Haydock handicap win over Third Wind (a big price in this company now).
The World's End won a weaker renewal a year ago but has disappointed since while 2015 winner Thistlecrack will be a teenager on New Year's Day and can only be watched after more than a year off.
The likes of The Jam Man and Portrush Ted have it to prove in this company and so to Roksana for Dan and Harry Skelton.
The mare readily won a Wetherby Grade 2 on her seasonal return in October over this trip, with Stayers' Hurdle hero Lisnagar Oscar only fourth behind her. That was just her third tilt at three-miles, both previous outings yielding seconds in Grade 1s at Aintree. She was, of course, a fortuitous Cheltenham Festival winner in 2019 but Roksana has remained a solid barometer throughout her career.
She rarely runs a bad race and while there's a minor worry should the ground turn heavy, she has untapped potential at this distance and, getting 7lb from the boys, can run a big race as she looks to enhance her reputation in the staying hurdles world.
3.00 - Good Luck Hollie In SPOTY Silver Cup Handicap Chase (Listed, 3m)
The Conditional made a pleasing return to action when third in the Ladbrokes Trophy three weeks ago and David Bridgewater's Cheltenham Festival winner rightly comes here with strong prospects on the back of that run. He's been eased 1lb by the assessor and has a live chance.
Ardlethen (sixth) has a few lengths to find on that Newbury run with him but Dan Skelton's charge is another that may go well.
Last year's winner Regal Encore is back again and will act on testing ground but he remains 8lb higher and is now rising 13 years young. Beware The Bear should give his running but last month's course and distance winners Quarenta and ESPOIR DE GUYE are fancied to go well.
The former has more to do taking on better opponents but has to be considered after that positive first experience over track and trip. Preference, however, is for Venetia Williams' contender.
Bar a sub-par showing in the Novices' Handicap Chase at Cheltenham in March, he's progressed with each start over fences and made it three wins in five starts as he bounced right back from that spring disappointment when scoring here last month on soft going.
He rallied well late in the piece having inherited the lead early in the race and had Drumcliff behind in third spot. A 6lb rise looks fair and Charlie Deutsch will be confident of another positive showing.
3.35 - Betfair Exchange Trophy (Grade 3 Handicap Hurdle, 2m)
BOTOX HAS got a reality check of sorts at Newbury three weeks ago when finishing fourth in a Listed handicap won from the front by Floressa. Gary Moore's charge had risen to this mark of 146 on the back of a Cheltenham conditions win on his seasonal bow, though he saw that form reversed with runner-up The Pink'n at Newbury.
He's only four-years-old and retains the potential to do better things in this sphere as the season progresses. This is a hot handicap and it should prove extremely competitive but he's gone in at a seemingly generous price and could harbour each-way claims.
It's not hard to make cases for plenty of the scheduled 17-runner field and any betting moves should be monitored closely.
Top-weight Buzz could be good enough, while Harambe, Malaya and Time Flies By are all notables. Benson goes for a four-timer for Dr Richard Newland and isn't dismissed despite going up 10lb in the ratings.
Belfast Banter won a Galway maiden hurdle on soft ground in October and that Ballybrit success should stand him in good stead for the stiff finish here. Peter Fahey's charge has since run a good second in a Punchestown novice on testing ground last month.
He'll handle conditions and, rated 129, is another of these at decent odds that could be capable of having a proper say in the outcome.