13:30 Wincanton

TORULA (NAP) (best price 3/1) has run a good deal better than the bare result has suggested in several hot-looking novice hurdles and, having been handed what appears to be a reasonably favourable handicap mark, Ben Pauling’s gelding rates a strong choice to strike at the first time of asking in his new discipline.

Well beaten in a novice event won by Authorized Speed at Lingfield back in November, he subsequently underwent surgery to correct a wind issue and on the evidence of his last two starts, he seems to have all the mechanical parts back in full working order.

Not knocked about to finish a never-nearer fifth in an above-average affair at Chepstow a month later (second and fourth both won since), he once again caught the eye with the way he kept on nicely in the latter stages at Huntingdon last time.

EBF qualified after that run, he will obviously have to go some way to get into the Final at Sandown later in the season, but with today’s contest seen as a stepping stone towards that sought-after prize at the Esher venue, anything other than a positive display will have to go down as a big anti-climax.

Torula - 1pt

15:25 Southwell

Aztec Warrior is just the type who often have the bookmakers running scared, but whether he deserves to be quite so short up against EVANIA (best price 7/2), who easily boasts the best piece of form, is very much open to question.

A comfortable winner on her debut for John Gosden, the daughter of Golden Horn made an instant impact for new connections towards the backend of last season and considering she was off the track for the thick end of two years prior to shipping up at the Sunbury venue, her performance deserves extra merit.

Pitched into the deep end of the listed Churchill Stakes at Lingfield two months later, Kevin Philippart De Foy’s filly was understandably sent off one of the outsiders at 40-1 but, despite her position in the market, she came out of the race with great credit.

Although beaten 12 lengths, the time figure of the contest the Surrey venue was one of the best recorded on an all-weather surface in recent times (track record) and it’s come as no surprise to see the form work out well since. The runner-up, Algiers, bolted up by six lengths in Meydan next time and is one of the leading fancies for the Group 1 Dubai World Cup in March, Forest Of Dean and Harrovian fought out the finish of a fast-track qualifier at Newcastle subsequently and even the ninth and eleventh, The Wizard Of Eye and Azaraqaan have both won since.

Off the track for 82 days since, there obviously has to be an element of trust attached to her wellbeing, but providing she’s somewhere near her best, she surely has to be a good deal better than her current rating of 85 (kept on the same mark after Lingfield) and she’s strongly fancied to press home that opinion on her first attempt in handicap company.

Evania - 1pt

16:25 Fakenham

SMALL BAD BOB (best price 7/1) ran pretty well in a much tougher race than the one he faces here this afternoon and something in and around a similar performance should see Paul Henderson’s gelding equally as competitive as he was 32 days ago.

Sent off 25/1 in the track’s most valuable and competitive race seen for some time, the son of Big Bad Bob always looked as though he was going to defy his position in the market and as it turned out, a keeping-on third ended up being a fair reflection of his efforts that day. No match for the good winner, Irish Hill, he did take the scalps of many in-form and fancied handicappers and for that reason, it’s quite a surprise to see him come out of that contest on a slightly lower mark.

Runner-up on his only other previous outing at today’s track, he clearly doesn’t mind the tight nature of the Norfolk venue and hailing from a yard who had a welcome winner at Plumpton the other day – ridden by today’s pilot – the eight-year-old makes quite a bit of each-way appeal at the morning prices.

Small Bad Bob - 1pt e/w @ 7/1