Our top gossip column returns ahead of a weekend in which trainer Kim Bailey is expected to taste plenty of success.
2.45 Wetherby - Newtide
Kim Bailey's team have shown more evidence of a return to form over the past few days and Newtide can underline the point with victory in the Grade Two William Hill Towton Novices Chase at Wetherby on Saturday. Bailey has a number of classy young chasers housed at his Cotswold base and this lightly-raced gelding is one of them. A very promising hurdler last season without being too highly tried, he made a great start to his chasing career at Ffos Las in the autumn but has not run since. The fact his trainer is heading into pattern territory with so little experience shows how highly he regards this son of Getaway and he looks sure to give his talented opponents plenty to think about.
4.33 Wetherby - Midnight River
Dan Skelton's Midnight River finished an eye-catching third in a bumper which has worked out particularly well at Worcester on his debut and can confirm that initial promise in the closing weatherbyracing.co.uk Standard Open National Hunt Flat race.
1.15 Sandown - First Flow
First Flow should also go close for Bailey in the Betway Casino Handicap Chase at Sandown. Another well regarded performer over hurdles, he came up against a brace of classy performers on his first two outings over fences but then hosed up at Hereford on his third attempt. Well-fancied to win over an extended two miles and three furlongs on his latest outing at Ascot, he ran out of steam on the heavy ground after attempting to make all and faded to finish third to Espoir De Guy. That was a hot handicap and he has been given plenty of time to recover from a tough examination. He should be more effective on this return to the minimum trip.
2.25 Sandown - Itchy Feet
Itchy Feet could be the one to take advantage if there is any flaw in Irish star Laurina in the Grade One Betway Scilly Isles Novices Chase. Olly Murphy has wasted little time pitching one of last season's top novice hurdlers into the highest level over the larger obstacles, especially as he won his only chase so far in a weakly contested three-runner affair at Leicester. However, connections are confident he is ready for the challenge and he could be worth a small speculative interest.
3.00 Sandown - Coole Cody
Coole Cody will have had the Betway Heroes Handicap Hurdle on his radar for some time and could reward an each-way interest. Ground conditions on the hurdles course will be even more testing than over fences and Michael Blake's nine-year-old will handle both the mud and the demanding course after his fine second to Lord Napier in this race 12 months ago. Now 6lbs lower in the ratings and fitted with cheekpieces for the first time, he should produce another sound effort, especially after enjoying a short break to freshen up after disappointing at Haydock in December.
2.40 Musselburgh - Greaneteen
Greaneteen has won three of his five outings for Paul Nicholls and features among a powerful team for the champion trainer heading north to Musselburgh this weekend. He took two very useful scalps when landing his two wins over hurdles last season and made a great start to his chase career in a novices' handicap at Ascot in December. He still looks nicely weighted despite a six pounds rise in the Bet365 Scottish Champion Chase, and with few miles on the clock, can be expected to improve.
2.05 Musselburgh - Ashington
Ashington can avenge his recent defeat by Sir Chauvelin and stablemate Project Bluebook in the bet365 Scottish County Handicap Hurdle. John Quinn's charge was strongly fancied to beat both rivals over course and distance on his latest start but found little when he coming off the bridle. Brian Hughes is back in the saddle again and an improved performance is anticipated with a change in riding tactics a possibility.
2.55 Lingfield - Bangkok
Bangkok can start his third season on a high note with victory in the Listed Betway Winter Derby Trial at Lingfield. Andrew Balding held Classic pretensions for this son of Australia last spring but after his win over Telecaster in the trial at Sandown in April he only flattered to deceive. However he came back well from his flop in the Investec Derby, finishing placed at Group Two and Three level on two of his last three starts. He ended the campaign with a sound rating of 112. A respectable second in Doha on his return from a four-month absence will have put the edge back on his for this return to the domestic scene and he should be up to beating his older opponents, especially with his stable in such good form at present.
5.15 Kempton - Key Look
Key Look should go well on her debut in the 32Red On The App Store Fillies Novice Stakes at Kempton. Simon Crisford would probably have preferred a better draw for this daughter of Dawn Approach but she has been showing up nicely in her preparatory homework and can give a good account of herself in an interesting heat.
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