14.25 Newbury 

The Alan King-trained NOBBY (best price 16-1) has yet to match his very good bumper form in this sphere but an opening handicap debut mark of 115 is essentially workable and, if able to rediscover the sort of form he displayed when third on hurdles debut over course-and-distance last February, this gelding should be more than ready to make an impression here. 

He displayed promise when tentatively handled to finish third under a hands-and-heels ride from today’s rider Tom Cannon behind Good Ball on his first go over hurdles and has put together two good efforts on both visits to this course previously to suggest a revival might be on the cards later this afternoon. He was comprehensively turned over as a short-price favourite at Hexham and didn’t fare much better at Southwell next time when a disappointing third but had valid excuses on return at Warwick where an early mistake set him on the back-foot and he never got into any kind of rhythm for the remainder of the contest, ultimately finishing a well-beaten tenth in the end. I don’t think he stayed, either though, so it’s no surprise to see him back over a more suitable distance here as he shapes more like a speedy horse rather than a stayer and, with no excuses on these favourable terms, he’s an appealing each-way contender with four places available. 

Nobby - 0.5pts e/w @ 16/1

14.35 Plumpton 

It’s probably right in saying that Kim Bailey’s ROCKY’S TREASURE (best price 7-1) has been operating well below his best for over a year, but his victory at Doncaster in a stronger event than this still lingers in the memory and with conditions expected to dry-out, which will suit, the top-weight gets the call to potentially cash-in on his reduced mark under Harrison Beswick. 

Top And Drop is probably the right favourite based on recent form but a 5Ib rise for her half-a-length victory looks harsh and most of the remainder don’t look well-treated. On the other hand, Kim Bailey’s eleven-year-old would eat these for breakfast if back to anything near his best and if able to iron out his habitual costly errors which have deserted him of further success during his career. In his prime, he was rated as high as 147, which included a Grade Two victory and there were a bit more positive signs to glean from his latest sixth at Wetherby, where shaped well for a long way until spitting the dummy out once headed. His one-dimensional style of racing, front-running that is, should favour him around this tight left-handed venue and he has the ability to give course-specialist Cheque En Blanc a lesson in his own backyard if on a going day. 

Rocky’s Treasure  - 0.5pts e/w @ 7/1

15.00 Newbury 

MELLOW BEN (best price 8-1) ended last season on a high note when third in the listed summer cup and, having warmed up for this with a spin over hurdles at Kempton on his return, the nine-year-old looks set to run with credit on a course that he’s acquitted himself well at in the past. 

Chris Gordon’s smart chaser is fifteen pounds below his last winning mark and it seems a plan that could be executed here on return to this venue based on his previous visit here which saw him finish third in the Sir Peter O'Sullevan Memorial Handicap Chase off a mark of 132. He’s twelve pounds lower here in this lower grade and I’m surprised the handicapper has dropped him three pounds for his chasing comeback as his third at Uttoxeter on his penultimate outing was perfectly respectable. Dropped a few pounds to a career-low chasing mark and in calmer waters, he appears to be great each-way value here.  

Mellow Ben  - 0.5pts e/w @ 8/1

15.30 Newbury 

Gran Luna got the better of VOICE OF CALM (best price 5-1) when the pair clashed over course-and-distance three weeks ago but the former would definitely have won without a mistake at the final hurdle and being 3Ib better off with Nicky Henderson’s charge here alongside the Emma Lavelle team going great guns of late, she’s strongly fancied to make amends and gain revenge in the DJB Cleaning Ltd Mares' Handicap Hurdle. 

This six-year-old mare, by Poet’s Voice, has been unfortunate to hit the crossbar in three runs this term, including the last two times when beaten a head and a neck in each of them. Miranda was a worthy winner at Ludlow in December but this mare made her pull out all the stops as they drew clear of the remainder and the winner defied a mark of 143 so she clearly remains well-treated off 122 for today’s assignment. I was impressed by how she travelled here last time, where she was the only runner on the bridle down the home straight and cruised past Pogo I Am, Megan and Gran Luna at the second last who were under the pump at this stage. She moved menacingly into the lead when asked for maximum effort approaching the last hurdle but made a howler of the obstacle, which halted her momentum. To her credit, she was headed on the run-in but rallied gamely as the post loomed and would have got back up in another stride. From my point of view, I think she should be favourite here as she was due to go up at least four pounds but, fundamentally, has only been raised a pound which is imminently workable and, based upon latest evidence, this is well within her capabilities. If she can keep her concentration on the job in hand, I’m pretty confident she will confirm her superiority over these here. 

Voice Of Calm - 1pt @ 5/1

16.10 Plumpton 

There appeared to be no fluke about the way SHIROCCY ROAD (best price 11-2) saw off her sole rival Cole Stone at Fakenham in December despite the latter being sent off 1/7 favourite and she gets the verdict to follow-up on handicap debut in the finale under the excellent Tom Bellamy for the in-form Emma Lavelle team. 

This is a pretty weak contest and the mare drops in grade for her handicap debut off an opening handy mark of 102. Her jumping was pretty good when seeing off her only rival last-time-out and this could be a good bit of placing by her excellent trainer. She’ll need improvement to defy top-weight of course but, unlike her rivals, she’s progressive and I really can’t see her out of the frame here with conditions right up her street. 

Shiroccy Road  - 0.5pts e/w @ 11/2