13:45 Southwell

FALCO BLITZ (NAP) (best price 11-8) has been involved in two particularly strong novice events since switching to fences and with today’s contest representing a slight fall off in terms of quality opposition, Nicky Henderson’s gelding can hopefully make it third time lucky.

A smart hurdler 132-rated hurdler, the son of Falco began life over fences off the same mark in a handicap at Ascot and although he ran respectably to finish fifth behind Sully D’Oc AA, his tendency to favour going to his left throughout ultimately caught up with him at the business end. Pitched into an even hotter race at Kempton on Boxing Day, the seven-year-old was this time ridden with a bit more restraint and as it turned out, the end result was a good deal more productive. Although he still edged left on the odd occasion, it wasn’t so marked as it was at the Berkshire track, and the way he stayed on in the closing stages to finish a never-nearer runner-up up to Killer Clown, held out really positive signs for the future. Looking at the numbers from that 2m4f handicap at the Sunbury venue and they reveal the main players were trapping along at the sort of pace which allowed them to run a faster final circuit time than both Grade 1 winners Frodon (2.8 seconds) and Shan Blue (3.6), so it’s come as little surprise to see the form hold up so well since with the likes of the well-beaten Alnadam and Galahad Quest winning next time (Hold The Note also ran well at Newbury yesterday). As he can be a little keen, it wouldn’t be a bad idea if connections made the decision to make the running with him here today if nothing wanted to go forward (has made all in the past), but either way, he should have enough class to overwhelm today’s rivals based on his last run and overall profile in a race of this nature.

Falco Blitz - 2pts @ 11/8

15:50 Southwell

MINELLA TARA (best price 8-1) ended up being pretty well beaten at Newbury last time out, but the ground at the Berkshire venue was far from ideal and now returning to a surface and track which witnessed him run really well previously, Fergal O’Brien’s gelding makes quite a bit of each-way appeal at the morning prices.

Having his first outing since wind surgery at the Midland venue, the son of Kayf Tara was in the process of running a big race until falling at the last and that untimely tumble seemed to have an effect on his confidence a month later when he made a few notable mistakes at the business end of a well-run affair won by the smart Gallyhill. Back over the brush hurdles today, the six-year-old should be better suited by tackling obstacles that put less pressure on his technique and with the time figure and subsequent form of his C&D effort standing up nicely in the context of today’s race (winner and runner-up convincing winners since), it would come as no surprise to see him right in the mix.

Minella Tara - 0.5pts e/w @ 8/1