PRICE BOOSTS MAX BET £10
12.55 - Visit Attheraces.com Handicap Hurdle (2m3½f)
The opening handicap on the card is going to be a minefield for punters and it looks set to revolve around potential more so than what has already been achieved on the course. The betting therefore should make for a trusty ally in assessing the candidates.
As such, SUNSET WEST, Mercutio Rock, Lifeisahighway and En Couleur are all very much ones to note.
Having won an Irish point for Colin Bowe back in March, Sunset West has shown plenty promise in three novices hurdles for Phil Kirby. He outran odds of 33-1 at Wetherby in October and looked to set to score at Kelso (2m6½f, good to soft) in early November only to come down at the second last.
Sunset West was held by subsequent Ascot scorer Enqarde when second at Newcastle over a similar trip last month and makes his opening foray into handicaps from a workable mark of 117, with Joe Williamson taking 7lb off his back. He drops in trip but given the forecast soft ground, plenty emphasis will be placed on stamina up the home straight and he can make that count.
Mercutio Rock has work to do on his jumping but looks to have been let in quite lightly off 112 for the Jonjo O'Neill's, while a wind operation may bring about improvement in Ben Pauling's Lifeisahighway and Nico de Boinville is always a notable booking for the yard.
1.30 - Irish Thoroughbred Marketing Lightning Novices' Chase (Grade 2, 2m½f)
It seems a long, long while now since SHISHKIN took a tumble on his hurdling bow at Newbury in December 2019. Nicky Henderson's charge made rapid progress thereafter, winning 3-3 over timber and culminating in a determined Supreme Novices' Hurdle success at Cheltenham last March.
No time was wasted going chasing and the Seven Barrows inmate is 2-2 in this sphere and, on visuals at least, perhaps the most impressive novice in Britain or Ireland so far this season. His trainer has won three of the last eight renewals of this Doncaster Grade 2 and Shiskin looks set to add to that tally in completing his prep-work for the Arkle back at Cheltenham in just over six weeks.
The much-improved Est Illic rallied to hold off Fast Buck in a handicap over C&D last month. He was getting close to a stone-and-a-half in weight then and will be doing well to confirm the placings off levels now.
Cheddleton has recorded successive wins at Carlisle and Haydock since a promising chasing bow at Uttoxeter in the autumn. He's on the upgrade and can play second fiddle here for Jennie Candlish.
Eldorado Allen isn't overlooked easily for the forecast however. He ran in a hot renewal of the Henry VIII Novices' Chase at Sandown last time and can go well, but his earlier, fortuitous Cheltenham success in November means he's got to give away 5lb to all bar the favourite now.
2.05 - Irish Thoroughbred Marketing Yorkshire Rose Mares' Hurdle (Grade 2, 2m½f)
No Lady Buttons this time means the Yorkshire Rose Mares' Hurdle will have a new winner. Her trainer Phil Kirby sends Rayna's World into battle with his much-loved Doncaster specialist now retired. Rayna's World leaves behind novice company and will surely take plenty from this experience. It might not come as a shock to see her back here in 12 months with leading claims.
Irish Roe has thrice run well in this contest before but her efforts in two runs over hurdles this season don't warrant the suggestion it will be fourth time lucky for her. She did run well in an all-weather bumper at Newcastle recently and her Doncaster form ensures it wouldn't be a massive shock if she shaped well.
Nicky Henderson won the inaugural running of this in 2008 and bids for a first win since with a double-strength attack via FLORESSA and Marie's Rock.
The former came off best when they met at Newbury in November in a Listed handicap, a race in which Marie's Rock went off favourite but shed her unbeaten record after a tame enough run. An array of headgear is fitted now and it's noted that Nico de Boinville deserts here in favour of Floressa.
She made all in the Newbury win and cannot be marked down for finishing fourth in the Grade 1 Christmas Hurdle at Kempton since. She has to concede weight but looks a major player.
French import Miranda has thrived since joining Paul Nicholls and wasn't beaten far in a competitive Musselburgh handicap on New Year's Day. She'll need to take another step up on that showing but isn't dismissed.
2.40 - Albert Bartlett River Don Novices' Hurdle (Grade 2, 3m½f)
He had no answer for ready winner Make Good but PATS FANCY showed that dismissive odds of 33-1 on the back of his heavy-ground Ffos Las success on hurdling debut in November were misplaced when second at Cheltenham over this trip last month.
He had the likes of Ask A Honey Bee (third), Ashtown Lad (fifth) and Took The Lot (eighth) in behind in that contest and looks a very promising staying hurdler for Rebecca Curtis, the Neath handler with a strong track record at getting the best of her performers in this division.
There's almost certainly further progress in Pats Fancy and he's a very fair price in the early markets having turned over a few of these last time.
Bobhopeornohope had Ask A Honey Bee behind in second when scoring on hurdles debut at Kelso in November and Kim Bailey's charge defied a penalty to score over 2m5f here later that same month. That race has thrown up a number of subsequent winners.
The main danger to the selection however could be Fern Hill. He caught the eye on hurdles bow at Uttoxeter in October in third and has record successive Wetherby wins since, the latest when rallying strongly to beat a fellow penalised winner in Witness Protection over 2m5½f (soft) last month.
That form is very strong, with the runner-up and third successful since, and Ben Case will feel his charge has a major chance of seeing out this trip.
3.15 - Sky Bet Handicap Chase (Listed, 3m)
CAP DU NORD came through with a smooth challenge to win the Sir Peter O'Sullevan Memorial at Newbury on Ladbrokes Trophy Day in November, with Canelo back in second spot.
The runner-up won the competitive Rowland Meyrick at Wetherby on Boxing Day and is better off with his old foe on these terms but Cap Du Nord can take plenty heart from his own Kempton second in December behind the easy winner Royale Pagaille. He was almost 20-lengths clear of everything else and Venetia Williams' charge emphasised the fact he was a blot on the handicap when defying a 16lb ratings-hike to win as he pleased at Haydock last Saturday.
Double Shuffle - third in the Kempton race at Christmas - was a winner at Sunbury track since and therefore a 6lb rise for Christian Williams' charge looks lenient based on those subsequent performances. He's far from exposed at this trip and is hard to oppose.
Aye Right is viewed a threat. After a good second on comeback at Kelso, he took on Cyrname in the Charlie Hall at Wetherby and then found only Cloth Cap too strong in the Ladbrokes Chase at Newbury, where he was conceding a stone to the winner. He had a recent spin around the all-weather at Newcastle and should be spot on for this.
3.50 - Sky Bet Money Back As Cash Handicap Chase (3m)
Top-weight Rathlin Rose was narrowly denied in a Conditionals' contest over C&D last month, a reminder the veteran still has a fire burning. He was pulled up since in the Sussex National however, his first start as a teenager, and is probably vulnerable conceding weight all round.
Who's In The Box is improving with each run over fences and narrowly avoided making it three runner-up finishes on the trot when edging out a subsequent winner at Market Rasen late last month. Nick Kent's runner should be in the firing line with scope for more improvement.
THE LATE LEGEND is stringing together a fine and progressive run of races. He justified short odds at Sedgefield (3m2f, good) in October to land a handicap off a lowly mark of 77 and has gained two more wins there and one at Huntingdon in five starts since.
Given that he was contesting the lead for so much of the race over C&D last month, he did well in giving Truckin Away a race late on before settling for second-best, a long way clear of the other finishers. That was off this mark of 112 and he's been left alone. Sean Bowen is back on board and they should be in mix again.
4.25 - British European Breeders Fund (EBF) Mares' Standard Open NH Flat Race (2m½f)
BILLAMS LEGACY ran well on debut at Uttoxeter in October in a Mares' Bumper that has worked out quite nicely. She was fifth that day under a patient Paddy Brennan ride and learned plenty on the job, as she showed when scoring at Wetherby in November on her next start. That form also looks solid and trainer Fergal O'Brien has taken the wise decision to pop 7lb claimer Liam Harrison on board now to offset the penalty she concedes. There's more to come and she is a key player.
Once-raced Leading Ewe On can improve and be competitive for Jamie Snowden but the big danger may well be Step To The Top.
She ran well in all three bumpers last season, latterly when second in Kempton Listed Mares' heat in March. She's not been sighted since but has strong claims on that showing for Noel Williams and must be feared if the market speaks for her.