1.20pm - White Lion At Weston Novices' Hurdle (2m4f)
Fresh from a winner this week at the Cheltenham Festival, Ben Pauling and Kielan Woods can kick-start their weekend with DEL LA MAR ROCKET in this novices' hurdle. He easily won a heavy-ground bumper at Exeter last season so attritional conditions here won't bother him. His first two hurdles starts were underwhelming at Hexham and Newcastle but he left those behind when coming clear at Ffos Las (2m6f, soft) last month to win a maiden.
Cousu Main won a maiden here in December for Dan and Harry Skelton but was pulled up when odds-on at Lingfield (2m, heavy) last month so has questions to answer now, while Nothin To Ask is proving consistent since going over timber for Fergal O'Brien and Paddy Brennan but might need to run better than his mark of 118 to account for the selection.
Kerry Lee's debutant New Found Fame is one to keep close tabs on in the betting.
Selection: Del La Mar Rocket
Next Best: Nothing To Ask
1.50pm - Optimum Experience Handicap Hurdle (2m7½f)
Sam Thomas was unfortunate this week that Good Risk At All agonisingly missed out on a place in his preferred Cheltenham target. The trainer can see WELSH SAINT going well here in the same Dai Walters silks. He joined this handler from Nicky Henderson back in the summer and has run some promising races in four starts since coming back out in November without getting a win.
He is now 13lb below his previous win-mark for the Seven Barrows team and both hurdles wins previously have come on heavy ground. Things might just be coming right for him.
Anthony Honeyball's runner Serious Changes is 2-2 thus far since going hurdling, winning at Exeter (2m½f, good to soft) and Fontwell (2m5½f, good to soft).
Both of those pieces of form have received boosts since and a mark of 120 could well underestimate him if seeing out this longer distance on his handicap bow.
Selection: Welsh Saint
Next Best: Serious Changes
2.25pm - Trinity Create Novices' Handicap Chase (3m)
All seven of these novices' come into this race with decent form behind them. Saint Palais won his first three starts after being sent chasing by Richard Bandey this term. Those wins came at trips from 2m7f-3m2f with give in the ground. He was last of four at Wetherby in the Grade 2 Towton Novices' Chase last time, though that run is forgivable given winner Ahoy Senor found only L'homme Presse too strong in a Cheltenham Grade 1 on Wednesday. It won't be a shock if he rebounds now.
DOCPICKEDME showed a willing attitude when scoring over 3m2f here in February for Harry Whittington. He carried 11st 12lb that afternoon and will feel let loose now with just 10st 9lb. A first-time visor goes on as Jonjo O'Neill Jr gets the leg up this time and the youngest horse in the field has scope for better.
Gustavian and hat-trick seeking Fuji Flight are other solid contenders in a tricky contest.
Next Best: Saint Palais
3.00pm - Optimum Pay Handicap Hurdle (2m4f)
This is a race David Pipe likes to target and the Pond House handler is bidding for a third win in four years. PANIC ATTACK was fourth on his most recent start at Cheltenham in October - winner Kansas City Chief has strung together a fine season since - and he returns from his break off an unchanged mark of 121 now. Tom Scudamore's mount has won on soft in the past and while both hurdles wins were over shorter, that Cheltenham run in the autumn was at three miles so this versatile sort should be fine at the intermediate distance and has gone well fresh before.
It was a quiet week for Pipe at Cheltenham (at least it was by Friday morning, anyway) but some weekend cheer may be in store.
Red Risk won over C&D five weeks ago for Paul Nicholls but has more on his plate from 11lb higher in the ratings now, leaving the very consistent Beauport as second choice for Nigel Twiston-Davies and 3lb claimer Jordan Nailor.
He was second over this trip at Newbury in December before a fine runner-up showing at Sandown in a Grade 3 handicap last month behind Green Book (pair clear). He drops in trip again now but underfoot conditions should ensure plenty of emphasis goes on stamina.
Selection: Panic Attack
Next Best: Beauport
3.35pm - Boulton Group Midlands Grand National (Listed Open Handicap Chase, 4m2f)
An out-and-out examination of stamina looms here. The brilliant veteran Yala Enki landed his third Portman Cup at Taunton in January and was making it successive wins after a Cheltenham success previously. He was entitled to win the last day and this is a much tougher test with 11st 12lb on his back - conceding upwards of 9lb in a deep field. It's more than 30 years since a top-weight won this attritional event.
Truckers Lodge hasn't won since bagging this two years ago. He's been in good form this season but remains 8lb above that win-mark now for Paul Nicholls.
Fresh from Festival success at Cheltenham, Harry Fry is doubled-handed here with Momella and Captain Drake. The mare essentially ran a cracker at Exeter behind Snow Leopardess last month over three miles - Charlie Longsdon's mare much-fancied by many for Aintree next month. If Sean Bowen's partner gets home at this new trip, she has her chance.
A dual winner here over hurdles, CAPTAIN DRAKE was second in this behind Truckers Lodge on heavy ground in 2020 under Bryan Carver. The partnership didn't go as well last year (13th) on slightly better ground but they are rated 6lb lower now and back on testing ground. Winners of last month's Devon National at Exeter over 3m6f they've got claims returning here.
Last year's winner Time To Get Up returns for the Jonjo O'Neill's but looks short in the betting given no horse has ever won this race twice.
Shark Hanlon's Hewick hasn't been seen since winning the Durham National in October at Sedgefield but he does go well fresh and Jordan Gainford's 3lb claim is a help to him. He's got scope for further improvement, though the forecast ground raises questions.
Selection: Captain Drake
Next Best: Hewick
4.10pm - Platinum Jubilee Mares' Handicap Hurdle (1m7½f)
This doesn't appear to be the strongest of mares' hurdles and with previous C&D-winning form, BRANSON MISSOURI should hold every chance again.
She won here on New Year's Eve off 5lb lower and returns off the back of a runner-up finish behind easy all-the-way winner No No Tonic at Wincanton this month (attempting to give the winner a stone).
Rachel Louise and Simply Red are in decent nick and have their claims too, while Gaot has yet to win since joining Harry Fry (0-9) but has made the frame in three of her last four starts and did win on heavy ground during her time in France.
Selection: Branson Missouri
Next Best: Gaot
4.45pm - 1652 Bar & Restaurant At Weston Handicap Chase (2m4f)
Loch Garman Aris was a distant second at Chepstow last month over further, standing no chance with an easy winner, and should run his race again despite his best form coming over further.
Coupdebol had something to spare in last month's heavy-ground Warwick win over this trip and has to be high on the list from 8lb higher for Johnny Burke and Tom George but MILLE SUSSURRI was making some pleasing shapes over fences in runner-up finishes at Hereford (2m5½f, good) and here (2m6½f, soft) in November/December.
Harry Fry's charge took a backwards step at Taunton over Christmas, quickly fading after a couple of jumping errors, and with a short break behind him, can get back on track now.
Selection: Mille Sussurri
Next Best: Coupdebol
5.18pm - Support The Racehorse Sanctuary Open NH Flat Race (1m7½f)
It's taken him a while to get to the track, but 6YO Gaelic Park only won his point-to-point in November and he made the perfect start under Rules when landing a Warwick bumper last month for Charlie Longsdon and Johnny Burke. That form has taken a knock but he was in strong command of the race and should have more to give.
Dan Skelton's Kracka Nut also began with a victory in this sphere at Catterick in December, though again the form isn't standout. Marginal preference is for Gaelic Park from the pair.
They must however concede 7lb to MASTER CHEWY and Nigel Twiston-Davies' son of Walk In The Park can make it count. He was second on debut at Chepstow seven weeks ago, collared only late by Sporting Ace for Neil King.
That was on soft ground so conditions are fine now and Master Chewy travelled like the best horse in the race and looked the winner everywhere bar the final 50 yards when he was nabbed after perhaps having been in front too long up the testing Chepstow home straight. He'll be wiser for that run and can go one better.
Selection: Master Chewy
Next Best: Gaelic Park
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