12:10 Newbury

POLITESSE (NAP) (best price 5-2) isn’t a household name to most UK punters just yet but there’s every chance come 12.15, Lorna Fowler’s mare will be the chief topic of conversation.

Runner-up in a Grade 2 bumper at Leopardstown last season, the daughter of Beat Hollow wasted no time in getting off the mark when scoring readily at Thurles next time and she ended up finishing her campaign off in the best possible fashion by lowering the colours of the smart Fakeira (won the Grade 3 Monksfield Novices’ Hurdle last weekend) on her debut over hurdles back at the same track. Returning to action after a 223-day break, the six-year-old was pitched into the deep end against many fit and in-form rivals in a Grade 3 at Down Royal and for nine tenths of the two-mile journey she looked like she was about to justify her connections’ bold policy (The Grade 1 Hatton’s Grace was also mooted as a possible target). Unfortunately, a sloppy jump at the last meant she lost momentum for the long run-in and it also caused her to blow up and she ultimately faded into fifth, a position that seemed scarcely possible on the run down to the final flight. Bound to be much sharper in every department today, this strapping mare has enough raw ability and class – not to mention decent time figures – to make a big impact against some of the better UK members in this division and she should be backed accordingly.

Politesse - 2pts @ 5/2

13:43 Doncaster

ASHINGTON (best price 7-4) ended up being a gallant third in a pretty hot handicap at Cheltenham’s opening meeting of the season a month ago and with the form of those ahead and behind him that day all providing ample evidence it was a race of some substance, John Quinn’s gelding is strongly fancied to take advantage of his untouched mark of 126.

Going as well as anything on the run down to two out, the son of Canford Cliffs ended up having nowhere to go when Sternrubin fell directly in front of him, virtually bringing him to a standstill, so to run on strongly the way he did to finish a clear third is testimony to his current wellbeing. Of the pair who finished ahead of him that day, the winner, Tegerek, only just failed to land the Greatwood Hurdle off an 8lb higher mark, the runner-up, One True King, just found one too good off top weight over the same C&D next time and the third, Wild Max, landed a competitive handicap at Huntingdon on his next outing.  Clearly well treated on the evidence of that effort – even more so if you factor in the interference – this good-ground lover’s chances have been given the final touches with the useful Kevin Brogan being booked to do the steering.

Ashington - 2pts @ 7/4

14:25 Newbury

Marie’s Rock undeniably has the most potential of these going forward, but whether she has the best form currently is open to debate and that’s one of the main reasons why she can be overlooked at her short price in favour of MILKWOOD (best price 4-1).

Having put this fella up in the Welsh Champion Hurdle only to see him finish out of the frame, I was a little disappointed at the time, but as the time figure and subsequent events of the race at Ffos Las have suggested, he clearly ran way beyond what he’d ever achieved in the past. As he often does, the son of Dylan Thomas impressed with the way he cruised through the race at the Welsh venue and although he just couldn’t go with the likes of Sceau Royal, Ballandy and Buzz, it’s hardly surprising considering what that trio have gone on to achieve since – not to mention fifth-placed Mario De Pail. Likely to be put to sleep at the back of field, expect Neil Mulholland’s gelding to be played late to good effect.

Milkwood - 1pt e/w @ 4/1

14:53 Doncaster

BYRON FLYER (best price 9-2) lines up as the only C&D winner in the field and following a decent effort on ground he wouldn’t have liked at Ascot last time out, Ian Williams’ gelding is fancied to add to his excellent record on Town Moor.

You’ve got to go back to 2016 for that initial victory here in a competitive handicap hurdle, but we also have more recent examples of his liking for today’s galloping track courtesy of a win and a second place on his only other two subsequent visits. Mixing codes since then, the son of Byron was back over hurdles to good effect in the Autumn when fourth in an ultra-competitive handicap at Southwell won by subsequent Greatwood Hurdle fourth, Hunter’s Call, and with today’s sound underfoot conditions falling neatly in his favour, a big run looks on the cards from this largely consistent performer.

Byron Flyer - 1pt e/w @ 9/2

15:00 Newbury

A race with a tapestry woven into National Hunt folklore and in what looks one of the most competitive and classy renewals in recent times, BLACK OP (best price 10-1) has fine chance of etching his name on the honours board.

Tom George’s gelding has always been highly-regarded and to be fair to him, most of the time, he’s lived up to his reputation. Good enough to finish a creditable third in the 2018 Grade 2 Cleeve Hurdle to Paisley Park was probably his best achievement over hurdles, but he’s always be seen as a chaser and despite winning just the once in six starts over fences, he’s gone pretty close to fulfilling his potential. Runner-up to Slate House in the Grade 1 Kauto Star Chase at Kempton last season over three miles his best effort so far over fences to date, he warmed up for a tilt at this prize when a close-up fourth behind Imperial Aura at Carlisle a month ago and considering the 2m4f trip would have been short of his best and he hadn’t run for 331 days, connections must have been fairly pleased with that initial display. Sure to strip fitter for the run, the nine-year-old returns to the scene of a track which saw him finish a length behind subsequent RSA Chase winner, Champ, at this meeting last season and with nice jumping ground sure to aid him in that department (has made the odd error here and there), hopefully his class will allow him to make a big impact.

Black Op - 0.5pts e/w @ 10/1