12:50 Lingfield

It is the start of the Winter Million meeting at Lingfield and I like the look of two in the opener, the Winter Million Mares' Novices' Hurdle. 

Lucy Wadham has a likeable mare on her hands in the shape of GAME ON FOR GLORY (best price 11-2), who is building up a consistent profile and has yet to finish worse than second in all her career starts to date. She was runner-up in her first three bumpers, two of which were behind subsequent winners Corey’s Courage and Flirtatious Girl before opening her account at Warwick in emphatic style. The six-year-old then made the perfect transition to this sphere when scoring over today’s course-and-distance on hurdles debut on heavy ground and, although she proved no match for Rainyday Woman at Taunton, she gets an effective three-pounds pull in the weights here. That offers hope that she can bridge the gap under today’s slower conditions and being the only one of these who has already tasted success at this venue, Bryony Frost should give her mount every opportunity of collecting the spoils. 

The market, however, may have underestimated Harry Fry’s LOVE ENVOI (best price 11-2), who impressively took her unbeaten record to three when making it two-from-two over hurdles at Leicester, defying a penalty to win by eight-lengths, ploughing through the heavy ground when stepped up to 2m5f for the first time. Her win was visually impressive, producing some spectacular leaps on the way round and always maintaining control once she took the lead on the turn for home before drawing clear without breaking sweat. This will be much tougher but she has won all of her starts in excellent style, including a decisive victory under these conditions, suggesting that she is well up to being competitive in this higher grade. 

Game On For Glory - 1pt @ 11/2
Love Envoi - 1pt @ 11/2

14:25 Lingfield

A lot of these have something to prove at the moment, with the exception of the Philip Kirby-trained TOP VILLE BEN (best price 5-1), who bounced back from a heavy fall at Aintree with an excellent third in the competitive Rowland Meyrick under testing conditions last time. The ten-year-old rarely seen in this sphere nowadays, given it’s his first run over hurdles in the UK in nearly four years but he’s very well-treated based on his chase mark (rated 150 in that code compared to his 140 here) and it’s interesting connections are reverting him back to hurdles here. I think this could be a good bit of placing by his trainer, who’s participant will handle conditions better than most and has shown enough signs this season that a return to winning form could be imminent so he should not be underestimated.

Top Ville Ben - 1pt @ 5/1

14:40 Market Rasen

This listed event has attracted some really promising mares’ including Kim Bailey’s penalised FLIRTATIOUS GIRL (best price 7-2), who brings the strongest form to the table, courtesy of her gusty display when seeing off a host of subsequent winners in a listed affair at Sandown ten months ago. We haven’t seen her since and it’s not ideal carrying a four-pound penalty, either, but if she can return in the same form as when last spotted, the six-year-old must have an outstanding chance on her reappearance. She’s two-from-three, has conditions in her favour, loves a battle and, based on her bumper evidence to date, she's the one to beat.

Flirtatious Girl - 1pt @ 7/2

15:00 Lingfield

The most fascinating runner of the whole afternoon is by far QUEENOHEARTS (best price 9-2), who returns from an absence and makes her chase debut in what is a really-competitive event. That said, this low-mileage nine-year-old was last seen enhancing her excellent strike-rate at Haydock on heavy ground, making it five-from-eight for former boss Stuart Edmunds. She defied a long absence that day so the lay-off here isn’t too much of a concern as she clearly goes well fresh and conditions will be right up her street, too. Interestingly, David Bass - who has ridden Flirtatious Girl in all three of her starts, has opted to come here to ride this talented mare instead, who’s his only ride on the card, too. She’s bred to make an even better chaser and, considering we don’t see her much, she’s already a dual listed winner and Grade Two winner and gets all the allowances here to make her of serious interest. 

Queenohearts - 0.5pts e/w @ 9/2

15:15 Market Rasen

SUNSET WEST (best price 9-2) has a good chance in the Symphony Group Handicap Chase. He has displayed a good chunk of promise in all starts to date, including on chase debut last time, where he attempted to charge off and try to maintain a relentless gallop for three-miles. He also made plenty of mistakes throughout but it demonstrated the level of ability he has, as was still on the bridle down the home-straight and was only beaten three-lengths. That will have taught him a lot and I have no doubt that a mark of 117 isn’t the ceiling of his ability, especially when you reflect on his Kelso departure last term. He was going to win that race with his head in his chest until falling at the second last and, in that event, featured Erne River, who’s subsequently bolted up in a handicap off 127, so therefore this seven-year-old is evidently well-treated and should go very close to opening his account here. 
Sunset West - 0.5pts e/w @ 9/2

15:35 Lingfield

The slowly-run affair at Newbury last time ultimately didn’t play to the strengths of GOWEL ROAD (best price 11-1) but he still ran with credit to only beaten a couple of lengths and, although this will require one hell of a performance to defy top-weight on bottomless ground, the option to bypass the Betfair Hurdle in favour of this event can pay dividends with a bold display from the six-year-old. It’s quite surprising that connections have kept him away from heavy ground for the best part of a year, given he outclassed the very smart Good Ball by five-lengths the last time he encountered it, at Newbury, around this time twelve months ago. Sam Twiston-Davies has guided him to all three career victories to date and, now that his mount is eased slightly in grade here, he’s one to consider each-way at a fair price with four places widely available. 

I am also going to nominate METIER (best price 11-4), who is taken to build on his eye-catching fourth at Ascot and get back to the level of form that saw him claim last year’s Grade 1 Tolworth Hurdle in good style. The six-year-old was actually sent off second-favourite for last season’s Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival but could only manage seventh. His return to action wasn’t much better but he travelled powerfully in the Betfair Exchange Trophy at Ascot last month and the combination of the three-pound ease and return to heavy ground should contribute to a big performance from Harry Fry’s talented youngster, who won’t get many better opportunities to return to the winners enclosure. 

Gowel Road - 0.5pts e/w @ 11/1
Metier - 1pt @ 11/4

16:08 Lingfield

I respect the fact that his last two efforts have been a little disappointing, including on stable debut at Chepstow, but SPRINGTOWN LAKE (best price 35-1) will be at home on heavy ground, as his form figures on the surface reads 31221 and he’s three-pounds below his last winning mark, too. The ten-year-old has performed well in a lot of big-handicaps during his career, as well as winning over this trip in a class-two by twenty lengths at Warwick. This is a lot easier and Brendan Powell, who’s booked for the ride, has his only ride on the card. Unlike most of his rivals, he’s very well-handicapped and I am very attracted to the double-figure price generally available about him as his odds appear to be insulting, especially when you consider that he’s achieved a lot more than nearly the whole field on collateral form.
Springtown Lake - 0.5pts e/w @ 35/1