KNOCKOUT the bookies with ROCKY’S TREASURE.
He’s taken to fences really well. His only defeat in five chase starts came when runner-up behind top prospect Santini on ground softer than ideal at Newbury’s big meeting early last month.
Since then he’s bolted up from the front at Doncaster.
These are his conditions and his excellent jumping should be too much for the rest. He does have to give 5lbs to his rivals but I reckon he’s up to the task.
White Moon also made all the running when easily winning at Exeter on New Year’s Day.
Whether he want to take on a strong stayer like Rocky’s Treasure over the longest trip he’s tried is another matter.
Secret Investor could be the biggest threat.
He wasn’t sharp enough to trouble Bags Groove at Wincanton on his chase debut and the return to 3m will help. There’s good races to be won with him.
Ok Corral beat Classic Chase hope Impulsive Star on his first try over fences at Plumpton.
His second behind Kilbricken Storm in last season’s Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival shows he’s got plenty of class but softer ground probably suits him better.
GO with the TIDAL FLOW in the Ballymore Leamington Novices’ Hurdle.
Champion jockey Richard Johnson teams up with his boss Philip Hobbs with this useful novice.
I liked the way he saw off highly-rated Downtown Getaway in a good race at Newbury last month. His previous Kempton win came on good ground so he shouldn’t have any problem with today’s conditions.
Birchdale made a nice hurdles debut over today’s course and distance.
The race has worked out well but I thought runner-up Clarendon Street was a little unfortunate.
Nicky Henderson had the favourite for the Tolworth Hurdle last weekend with Rathhill. He was another to step into Graded races after winning on his hurdles debut but his lack of experience let him down.
That has to be the worry again today with Birchdale.
Rockpoint and Beakstown are likely to be better over further and Stoney Mountain’s form doesn’t look particularly solid.
Finawn Bawn is more interesting. He won his bumper on decent ground and was far from disgraced behind smart prospect Eldorado Allen at Sandown on his hurdles debut.
There was a lot to like the way he won at Bangor last month and the longer trip can only help.
GO Back to front in Warwick’s Classic Chase.
STEP BACK has been high on my list of staying chasers to follow this season after demolishing his rivals in the Bet365 Gold Cup at Sandown on the final day of last term.
He was wearing cheekpieces for the first time that day and they’re back on again after trainer Mark Bradstock left them off for his comeback run at Chepstow.
This place takes some jumping and that will suit him down to the ground. He put in a magnificent round at Sandown and he’s also unexposed over this type of distance.
The fact he hasn’t run since October doesn’t worry me as the Bradstocks are more than capable of getting him ready.
Last year’s winner Milansbar might find the ground a bit quick.
They didn’t see which way he went 12 months ago when his slick jumping kept him in the clear. He’ll do well to get to the front so easily this time.
Nigel Twiston-Davies has a strong hand. Son Sam rides last year’s runner-up Cogry after his all-the-way Cheltenham victory last month.
He stays well and likes good ground but he’ll need a career-best effort to take this.
The same applies to stablemate Calett Mad. He was just outstayed over 4m at Kelso last time out. He travelled like the best horse but just failed to see it out as well as Harry The Viking.
This could easily be his perfect trip but his life has been made a little tricky by the handicapper nudging him up 5lbs.
Ibis Du Rheu landed a good novices’ chase at Cheltenham in November.
That form was turned around in some order when he was left trailing by The Worlds End last month. The step up in trip is not certain to suit and these fences might come a little thick and fast for him.
It’s not much more than a couple of years since Carole’s Destrier ran Native River close. He bounced back from some poor efforts to swoop at Newbury over Christmas but plenty fell his way that day.
There’s no doubt he’s well treated on his best form but I’m not convinced he’s as good as he was.
MAKE sure you Keep your money safe in this Pertemps Hurdle qualifier.
KEEPER HILL was a really smart novice hurdler a couple of years ago when he won the Listed Sidney Banks Novices’ Hurdle.
After a promising start to his chasing career last season he lost his confidence so it was good to see him run so well when runner-up over hurdles at Cheltenham last month.
He should step forward again and take advantage of a nice weight.
Notwhatiam is the one I fear most.
He won at the first time of asking after joining Dan Skelton and might well have played a hand at the finish had he not fallen two from home at Cheltenham.
He bounced back to win at Uttoxeter and the drop in trip to 2m4f was probably against him at Aintree.
That race was won by subsequent Relkeel Hurdle hero Midnight Shadow so to finish third was certainly not bad.
First Assignment is another to consider.
He twice won at Cheltenham before finishing a close third behind subsequent Grade 1 winner Paisley Park at Haydock. He’s higher in the weights again but is clearly a smart young stayer.
Blaklion is better known as a staying chaser.
He finished fourth in the Grand National a couple of years ago and it’s hard to imagine this distance on decent ground will play to his strengths.
KIM BAILEY has been banging in the winners and his CHARBEL looks to have a great chance of keeping the hot streak going in the 32Red Casino Chase.
He’s always had plenty of class and he’s now putting it all together. His Chepstow handicap defeat of Baron Alco worked out well and he then ran top-class Politologue close at Ascot.
The way he came clear of the likes of God’s Own and Tea For Two to win a Huntingdon Grade 2 was most impressive. If he’s in that sort of form he’ll be hard to beat.
Top Notch has only been beaten in Grade 1 races since his chase debut – when third behind Charbel – a couple of years ago. He’s tough and consistent but the ground could be a bit softer for him.
I’m sure he’ll improve for his decent comeback run when third in the Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot and it’s not hard to think he’s the main danger.
Black Corton did incredibly well last season but he hasn’t really fired this term. It’s hard to think the drop to 2m4f on good ground is going to spark a revival.
WELSH trainer Peter Bowen should be the Lord of Lanzarote.
I fancy his LORD NAPIER – ridden by his jockey son Sean – to land the Unibet Lanzarote Hurdle.
He’s done his winning on softer ground but he’s run well on a quicker surface twice this season.
It was the 2m trip that found him out when sixth behind Mohaayed in a valuable Ascot handicap just before Christmas so today’s longer distance should help.
Kloud Gate has obvious claims but he’s too short in the betting for me. He was really useful on the Flat and it’s all clicked for him over hurdles this season. His easy wins at Leicester and Doncaster came in a much lesser grade and he shot up 12lbs for his latest success so this is his toughest task yet.
Darling Maltaix got off the mark in Britain with a smooth Ascot success last month. The testing ground may well have made the difference but he couldn’t be totally ruled out.
Cotswold Way and Star Of Lanka are both promising novices and Solomon Grey is sure to improve for last month’s comeback run.
Doux Pretender will have to jump an awful lot better than he did in a Grade 2 novices’ hurdle at Cheltenham last month in this competitive handicap.
HAVE a right Barney in the Unibet Handicap Chase.
BARNEY DWAN won a couple of novice races last season before finishing a good fourth behind Mister Whitaker at the Cheltenham Festival.
The 2m4f trip was too sharp for him at Chepstow on his return and his Bangor third behind Yala Enki was a solid effort. He’s promised more than he’s delivered in the past but I’m hoping the cheek-pieces he wears for the first time will make a difference.
Glen Rocco came home well to finish second in a good novices’ handicap at this track on Boxing Day. He should like today’s longer distance.
Ballykan tends to save his best for this course and he likes decent ground.
He was runner-up in the valuable Betdaq Chase here last season and he’s nicely treated on the peak of his form. It’s hard to see how he won’t go well but his win record is not great.
I’ve never been convinced by Josses Hill.
His fourth at Huntingdon last month following a breathing operation was a decent effort but he still needs to prove he stays this far.
1.30 Amour De Nuit
2.40 Lord Napier
3.15 Barney Dwan
3.45 Dino Velvet
1.05 Just Don’t Ask
1.40 Val Mome
2.15 Beau Bay
3.25 Thyne For Gold (treble)
12.40 Mercer’s Troop
1.15 Movie Legend
1.50 Rocky’s Treasure
2.25 Tidal Flow (nap)
3.00 Step Back
3.35 Keeper Hill (nb)
12.50 Lady Alavesa
1.25 Gorgeous Noora
2.00 Dutch Uncle
2.35 My Target
4.00 Glory Of Paris
4.30 Totally Magic
5.00 Kareena Kapoor
5.30 Tough Remedy
6.00 Call Out Loud
6.30 Athollblair Boy
7.00 Willow Brook