12.40 - Foundation Developments Novices' Handicap Hurdle (2m7½f)
Lots of chances in wide open Ascot opener. Young Butler was third in a hot Chepstow maiden (2m3½f) in October before opening his account back over that same C&D last month for Emma Lavelle. That form has taken a couple of knocks, but he's greatly respected upped in trip now sent handicapping none the less.
Go Steady is up 5lb for Leicester win this month and has claims again for the Skeltons, while Imphal and Next Left give Gary Moore a strong hand on paper and any money for Gordon Elliott's raider Ardhill would be noted.
The mare So Said I reversed previous form with Gazette Bourgeoise when winning a novice event at Exeter last time over this sort of trip and she appears on a workable mark here for Colin Tizzard but maybe there's improvement lurking from GAULOIS.
He was twice placed in Irish maidens early this year and was third at Chepstow (2m3½f, good to soft) in his first start for Paul Nicholls last month having gone off favourite. The winner impressed again in midweek at Leicester and an opening mark of 113 looks fair on second start after a wind operation with this longer trip sure to suit.
Next Best: So Said I
1.15 - Howden Graduation Chase (2m5f)
PENCILFULLOFLEAD boasted some smart novice form last season in Ireland, winning a Punchestown Grade 2 over 2m6½f in November from the smart Latest Exhibition and the going very close in a Limerick Grade 1 over Christmas behind subsequent Cheltenham Festival-winning mare Colreevy.
A longer trip may not have suited when he was third at Naas in January and given he won first time up last season it is reasonable to see him going well fresh here on his maiden visit to Britain for trainer Gordon Elliott. He rates the one to beat with a first-time tongue-tie added.
L'homme Presse spread his rivals out across the track at Exeter in this month's chasing bow for Venetia Williams but will need to find plenty improvement in what is a tougher assignment now. He has scope to build, however.
Messire des Obeaux was very impressive in his two wins around Wincanton last winter before things went awry in the spring against quality opposition, Alan King's charge is also shortlisted on his comeback.
Next Best: Messire des Obeaux
1.50 - Howden Handicap Chase (2m3f)
Neither Dolos nor Diego Du Charmil impressed here over short a month ago and the Paul Nicholls-trained duo are going to have up their respective games to score now giving away weight to this field. Both would have claims at their best.
Sully D'oc Aa is a reliable conveyance in this sort of event and was third in that same contest here last month over 2m1f. He ran again a week later at Newbury and is forgiven that blip as it might simply have come around too soon.
Palmers Hill scored in good style at Wetherby five weeks ago for Jonjo O'Neill on what was only his second outing over fences and has scope for better again.
GOLDEN WHISKY tends to need a run after a lay-off and so his Aintree effort last month over 2m isn't one to judge him harshly on. Evan Williams' charge has been eased 2lb for that showing and the return to this sort of trip can be another positive for him. He could well represent each-way value in this competitive contest.
Selection: Golden Whisky
Next Best: Palmers Hill
2.25 - Howden Long Walk Hurdle (Grade 1, 3m½f)
The big race of the weekend and one in which two-time winner Paisley Park faces a mammoth struggle to cling to his crown. Emma Lavelle's gelding appeared to get to the front going well last month in Newbury's Grade 2 at this trip, but he emptied quickly and was a labouring third at the line. A tongue-tie replaces the cheekpieces he sported that day and it's a long way back for him now.
Last year's runner-up Thyme Hill won the Stayers' Hurdle at Aintree in the spring and should be sharper for his comeback at Auteuil last month, a left-field move from Philip Hobbs to start off in France. He was very much a coming force in this division last season and probably should have won this race a year ago.
Ronald Pump again finished second to Honeysuckle in the Hatton's Grace at Fairyhouse on his comeback run and has proven form at this longer trip, he's got place claims.
Nicky Henderson had been due to fire two contenders here but ante-post favourite Buzz was ruled out after injuring himself at home in a Friday morning canter and that leaves the Seven Barrows supremo instead relying solely on Champ, appearing back over hurdles for the first time since his disappointing run in the Cheltenham Gold Cup in March.
Champ was a Grade 1-winning novice at this distance in 2019 and won 3-4 in his first season over fences before things went wrong last season amid interruptions that saw him posted missing until February. He's had some issues but is very talented and, if his jumping is letting him down over fences, it's not inconceivable he can become a major force in this division instead.
Next Best: Thyme Hill
3.00 - Howden Silver Cup Handicap Chase (Listed, 3m)
Cloth Cap couldn't see things out in his quest for a second Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury last month but Jonjo O'Neill's charge ran a respectable race just the same, finishing sixth. He placed in one previous visit to this course and his attacking style will ask questions of these rivals, no doubt.
Storm Control is one that might seek to contest the lead with him, while Belami Des Pictons should build on his comeback Bangor fourth and be competitive for a Venetia Williams team in rude health lately.
Annsam has twice run well over timber of late and retains scope to improve his lot back chasing for the Evan Williams team, upped in trip, but GRAND SANCY is the one that makes most appeal for champion trainer Paul Nicholls.
There was plenty to like in his Newbury fourth three weeks ago over shorter and with the potential for a good pace to be set here, the 7YO has the untapped potential at this increased trip from a handicap mark that has fallen to a very workable spot.
Selection: Grand Sancy
Next Best: Belami Des Pictons
3.35 - Betfair Exchange Trophy (Grade 3 Handicap Hurdle, 1m7½f)
Goshen heads the weights for Gary and Jamie Moore on what will be his first start in a handicap over timber. He's clearly talented but there are many more questions than answers for him these days and he's opposed giving 7lb and more to this field.
The likes of Metier and Benson are capable sorts, though both have work to do with Sandown conquers Samarrive - though Paul Nicholls' contender is now rated 11lb higher.
WEST CORK had No Ordinary Joe (third) and Tritonic (fifth) behind winning the Greatwood Hurdle at Cheltenham last month for Dan and Harry Skelton after 631 days off the track. That was an excellent performance from him and the 7lb rise isn't certain to stop a horse that connections patently have high hopes for still. His Cheltenham rivals are more than capable of giving him food for thought.
Selection: West Cork
Next Best: Tritonic