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12.40 - BetVictor Seniors' Handicap Hurdle (2m4½f)
A very interesting start to proceedings at Newbury with this Seniors' handicap hurdle, a contest open to horses eight-years and older, preceding a Veterans' chase as the second race on the card. A real opportunity for some firm National Hunt favourites to shine.
It's already been a productive week for claiming rider Millie Wonnacott with three winners from six mounts since last Sunday and there could be another one in store for her here with NEACHELLS BRIDGE.
He was useful as a chaser last season, scoring over this sort of trip at Uttoxeter amid some consistent form. His two Wincanton runs since Christmas ultimately saw him well held but the handicapper has dropped him 3lb and he's going to sport first-time cheekpieces this afternoon. With his rider also claiming a valuable 7lb, this environment could be ready-made for him and he fancied to go well.
Not A Role Model arrives on the back of wins at Wincanton (chase) and Fakenham (hurdles) most recently and cannot be crossed off despite inching up the ratings, while Equus Millar, Aintree My Dream and Eaton Hill all command respected in this opener.
1.15 - BetVictor Veterans' Handicap Chase (3m2f)
West Approach ran fourth in a similar Doncaster contest 10 days ago and is no doubt capable of grabbing one of these Veterans' contests but he just hasn't been finishing with the normal flourish that his hold-up style demands in recent months.
Fellow top-weight Present Man was a winner on reappearance at Chepstow in October but didn't fare as well in subsequent starts at Wincanton and Warwick. He needs to bounce back after a short layoff if hoping to give Bryony Frost a Saturday afternoon boost pre-Cheltenham.
Singlefarmpayment is certainly on the sort of mark from which he has to be considered a danger on third start for his latest trainer Henry Oliver, while Sir Ivan has been in good tune in three runs this season and ought to give another excellent account.
Preference is for likely front-runner VALADOM for the Richard Hobson team. He has posted figures of 121 on his last three starts over fences in Britain and was a perfectly acceptable third over hurdles at Ludlow in December when last spotted. If Paul O'Brien gets him in a good rhythm out in front, they could be hard to peg back under a lightweight.
1.50 - BetVictor Greatwood Gold Cup Handicap Chase (Grade 3, 2m4f)
The David Pipe-trained UMBRIGADO lost out to Northofthewall on his chasing bow at Uttoxeter in December but the likelihood is there was no shame in that and he has won both starts since at Fontwell and Wetherby.
He had the gears to cope with a drop to 1m7f last month at the Yorkshire circuit but should be more at home back over this intermediate trip. The handicapper adds 5lb here, but that may not be enough to prevent the hat-trick, despite the competitive nature of this race.
Paul Nicholls has won this nine times already including three of the last four renewals, so anything he sends into battle requires attention.
Grand Sancy was a good winner on comeback at Chepstow in October and was rather taken out of his comfort zone by the pace injected by Ga Law next time at Wincanton. This likely won't be run at such a ferocious gallop and he's a player.
Killer Clown has seen the form of his Christmas success at Kempton strongly advertised since and in-form trainer Emma Lavelle will be eager to see him go again. He has been put up 15lb in the ratings but merits a cut at this prize.
Add in the likes of Senior Citizen, Capeland, The Russian Doyen, Windsor Avenue and The Big Bite and this makes for a fiercely competitive heat. It hasn't been a season to remember for The Russian Doyen just yet, but he's a course winner and has slipped to a very workable mark should the change of scenery help energise him on his first start for new trainer Jeremy Scott. He may outrun a big price.
2.30 - BetVictor Handicap Hurdle (2m)
Proschema was an eye-catcher on seasonal bow at Wetherby in October before finding things tough in the Greatwood at Cheltenham (went off 5-1 second-fav) the following month. He has landed a pair of jumpers' bumper on the all-weather at Newcastle since late January and so comes here sharp. There are better days ahead for him over timber and he's shortlisted.
Tegerek was third in that hot Cheltenham handicap in November for Jonjo O'Neill and the form of his prior success at that venue has been franked. He's gone up another 3lb in the ratings but should have a say.
Golden Taipan and Millers Bank were first and second on the Polytrack at Kempton last month and come here with chances back over obstacles, while Glynn must rebound from a tame showing in the Lanzarote at Kempton but remains very low-mileage.
So, too, is HASANABAD for trainer Ian Williams. He won nicely on hurdles bow at Southwell in September and had excuses next time at Newton Abbot. He'll need to hurdle more fluently but he's been kept fresh on the all-weather recently and appeals as the sort to improve his lot in a first-time tongue-tie.
This smart Flat performer definitely has scope from an opening h'cap mark of 122 and the market perhaps will be overlooking him.
3.05 - BetVictor Novices' Handicap Hurdle (2m)
Iron Heart sports first-time blinkers and could be capable of having a say here for David Pipe and Fergus Gillard on his first venture into a handicap. He has run well here already and warmed up with a good all-weather run last month, so he's very much one to note in the betting.
GASTARA will have gleaned plenty from his recent handicap-debut third at Sandown (2m4f, heavy). He moved nicely into contention there before eventually giving best to two promising rivals with more experience than himself. Johnny Farrelly's charge lines up here from an unchanged mark and again benefits from the excellent claimer Kevin Brogan being on board. They drop in distance and are likely improvers.
This is very open and the betting will be informative. Runswick Bay is back from a break with the Emma Lavelle team flying, while Sopran Thor was ahead of Gastara in second last time at Sandown over further but has been nudged up 3lb for his troubles.
His run behind My Drogo here in November over C&D certainly entitles him to considering.
3.40 - BetVictor Novices' Chase (2m4f)
Paul Nicholls is holding the aces here with HITMAN and Getaway Trump a long way clear of their rivals Captain Cuckoo and Colonel Mustard on paper. Bryony Frost's mount is readily preferred. He won as he pleased on UK debut at Ffos Las in November and gave leading Arkle contender Allmankind a race in the Grade 1 Henry VIII Novices' Chase at Sandown subsequently.
He hit the deck last month at Esher venue upped to this distance but there were Grade 1 winners around him that day and, assuming there are no ill-effects from the mishap, he sets a strong standard in what is a much less daunting environment.
Stablemate Getaway Trump is best placed to take advantage if the market leader fails. He is though rated 11lb inferior to Hitman and so faces a tough challenge conceding weight to the promising youngster.
4.15 - Irish Thoroughbred Marketing Standard Open NH Flat Race (2m)
A trio of former winners line up here with Huntingdon scorer Silent Revolution and Lingfield Polytrack winner City Derby joining the very impressive Southwell scorer FAME AND CONCRETE in carrying penalties.
Jonjo O'Neill's son of Fame And Glory looked quite useful in his opening gambit at Southwell in December, pulling some 13-lengths clear of the nearest pursuer (ran a solid fifth at Taunton on Thursday in first start since). There should be plenty improvement from Richie McLernon's mount and he's most likely of the penalised trio to add to the tally.
A thorough examination of the betting will be warranted, as both Our Jester and Young Butler debut for excellent sources in Hughie Morrison and Emma Lavelle respectively and they could be capable of taking advantage of the 7lb they get from the previous winners.