Bay looks best in curtain-raiser
Ashley Iveson previews Friday's racecards, including the first of the three-day Paddy Power meeting at Cheltenham.
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CHELTENHAM: 1.15 Fingal Bay, 1.50 Silver Roque, 2.25 Dodging Bullets, 3.00 Sizing Australia, 3.35 Top Wood, 4.05 There's No Panic.
DUNDALK: 6.00 Monakova, 6.30 Hootie, 7.00 Levanto, 7.30 Cape Glory, 8.00 Lake George, 8.30 Balmont Flyer, 9.00 Loreto, 9.25 Edge Of Sanity.
LINGFIELD: 12.00 Arctic Admiral, 12.30 Maid A Million, 1.00 Elysian, 1.35 LIGHT SHINE (NAP), 2.10 Aldermoor, 2.45 Button Moon, 3.20 Roxelana, 3.55 Mutual Regard.
NEWCASTLE: 12.20 Eduard, 12.50 Nodform Richard, 1.25 Pyjama Game, 2.00 Ros Castle, 2.35 La Calinda, 3.10 Harris Hawk, 3.45 Enchanted Garden.
WOLVERHAMPTON: 4.15 Harrogate Fair, 4.45 Pavers Star, 5.15 Music Festival, 5.45 Monte Mayor One, 6.15 Yarroom, 6.45 Contributer, 7.15 Pekan Star, 7.45 May Boy.
DOUBLE: Light Shine and Yarroom.
The three-day Paddy Power meeting at Cheltenham kicks off in style on Friday, with the Steel Plate And Sections Novices' Chase proving a breeding ground of future champions.
Denman, Imperial Commander, Time For Rupert and Grands Crus have all taken this two-and-a-half-mile test in the last decade and the most likely victor this time around is Philip Hobbs' pride and joy Fingal Bay.
The six-year-old was unbeaten in his first four starts over hurdles last term, but missed the Cheltenham Festival due to injury and suffered his first defeat at Aintree in April.
However, chasing was always going to be his game and having impressed on his introduction at Chepstow, he should continue his progress at Prestbury Park.
The Paul Nicholls-trained Dodging Bullets looked much improved when winning here in October and is going to take plenty of beating in the Opus Energy Novices' Hurdle.
The four-year-old showed decent form as a juvenile, notably finishing fourth in the Triumph Hurdle, but failed to get his head in front.
That may have been a blessing in disguise, however, as he is a stronger horse now and his novice status remains intact for the current campaign.
Having bolted up by eight lengths a month ago, he is expected to go right to the top in this sphere.
Sizing Australia should turn in another good effort round the cross-country circuit in the Glenfarclas Chase.
Fresh from being crowned champion trainer John Gosden remains on the hunt for winners and Light Shine looks primed for the British Stallion Studs Supporting British Racing EBF Fillies' Handicap at Lingfield.
The well-bred daughter of Dansili has shown decent form in her three starts to date and the fact Gosden sends her handicapping off a mark of 75 rather than trying to win a maiden suggests he thinks she is nicely treated.
Having finished sixth of 14 on her debut at Kempton she was sent off favourite next time out at Ascot, where she was just run out of it close home by a more experienced rival.
Next time over this course and distance of 10 furlongs she bumped into what could be a very decent Godolphin youngster as the pair of them pulled eight lengths clear.
Godolphin's Layali Dubai is on a four-timer but this is her stiffest task to date and while this is competitive, the fact that William Buick is turning up is a tip in itself.
David Elsworth's horses ran into form all too late in the season but his Maid A Million can continue the good run in the British Stallion Studs Supporting British Racing EBF Maiden Stakes.
Having showed up well when fifth of 15 on debut at Thirsk she was finished second the last twice at Goodwood and Yarmouth.
All her runs of been with cut in the ground and she may improve a little for an artificial surface.
Roger Varian's Yarroom looks the best bet on the card at Wolverhampton in the 32Red Casino Stakes.
He made his debut at Kempton in June where he ran a nice enough race but was then not out again until Newmarket in October.
Given that absence, he ran a creditable race as he tried to make all before being caught up the hill and coming home third.
He is a half-brother to Saamidd, who was very well regarded as a juvenile by the Godolphin operation.
They also race over the sticks at Newcastle, where Harris Hawk should benefit from stepping back up in distance in the Freebets.com Handicap Chase.
John Wade's seven-year-old won twice at Gosforth Park back in March, with the handicapper putting him up a stone for winning by 14 lengths on his last start.
He was well held when third on his return to action at Haydock, but is likely to improve for the run and two and a half miles was always going to be on the short side for him.
Back over three miles on a track he clearly enjoys, expect Harris Hawk to get back on the winning trail.