The opening contest is a novices’ hurdle over 2m5f that sees a field of eight horses declared. Trainer Paul Nicholls has his stable in red-hot form, and it looks as though he won’t be leaving the racecourse empty handed.

Outlaw Peter  has achieved the most of these over hurdles with his most recent run coming in Grade 2 at Chepstow, where he looked the winner for a long way before getting tapped for toe by a quicker horse. He perhaps needed that first run back, and this step back up in trip will suit the six-year-old, who does look the one to beat.

Sporting Ace  is likely to make the running - he’s been forward in each of his last two starts including over 3m last time, but he could fall short to a rival who has race fitness on his side.


It looks very likely that Paul Nicholls will have a quickfire double on the card as Lallygag , a brother to the smart Lalor, will take all of the beating. He made light work of his rivals on his comeback run here last month, albeit going off as a 1/8 shot, and looks sure to have improved for that experience, too. However, he does have to shoulder a 6lb penalty for that success.

Joe Tizzard also has his horses in exceptionally good form and his King Of Lombardy  is a horse who showed plenty of ability on his debut in a bumper at Newton Abbot in May, and won’t mind any cut in the ground from the recent showers that have fallen. He also gets that 6lb from his main rival, so it wouldn’t be a surprise if he were to run very well.


The first handicap on the card has attracted a field of 16 and, for the grade, it does look a very competitive contest. There is good prize money on offer and I think there are four horses worth looking at, especially with Betway paying five places on this race.

Ma Belle Noire   looked very unfurnished in some of her novice hurdles last season but wasn’t without promise and a future in handicaps looks set bear fruit for the Harry Fry-trained five-year-old.

Shirocco’s Dream   won a good race at Sandown last year and that is simply the best winning form in the race. She was tried over a number from trips from 2m up to 3m last season, and while she didn’t win again, she was running after having a wind operation, which can often be a period of readjustment for a horse. Off her same winning mark, she could be competitive for the very in-form Tizzard stable.

Bonnie Bresil  is a daughter of Blue Bresil, and although she wasn’t competitive in any of her starts in maiden hurdles, should improve for this step up in trip in a handicap. She will be better than she showed last year.

Lady Pacifico  is a huge price but has some very good form in book. Her form on the flat is as a good as anything in the race and her fourth in a Listed Mares’ race at Taunton, while still a three-year-old, really caught the eye. She needed the run on her comeback last month and I expect her to step up on that performance. 


As with many novice chases at this time of the season, there is a small but select field for this race, but take nothing away from the quality on show. The standout horse is clearly Thyme Hill  from his exploits over hurdles. If he takes to fences and puts a clear round in, he’s going to be very tough to beat. He is simply a much better horse.

Of the other two runners, Press Your Luck finished in front of Flash Collonges at Chepstow last month, but with the weight pull that the latter gets, it wouldn’t be surprising if he turned the form around here. However, they both might be fighting for minor honours.


This 3m handicap chase is another contest that has attracted a competitive field, including last year’s winner St Erney  for local trainer Jackie Du Plessis. He is a two-time course winner who would have had this as his target for a long while, so it would be no surprise if he ran well again. However, his form tailed off on his last two starts last season, and he is running off a 5lb higher mark this time around.

One horse I am rather sweet on is Killer Kane , who gathered lots of experience over fences last season and his third at Aintree in April is the strongest piece of chase form this race has to offer. He did seemingly need his first run after a break for the last two seasons, so you’d wonder if he might come on for this run with a race at Newbury at the end of the month already pencilled in by his connections.

While he has never run over fences before, Masters Legacy  really does appeal for a trainer who has won this race three times in the past 10 years. He also has the benefit of a recent run, which would have blown away the cobwebs. His trainer is no stranger to giving horses their debut over fences in handicaps, and on the best of his hurdles form, where he had a career high rating of 137, I think his opening mark of 130 looks more than fair. It has to be said that the yard isn’t firing on all cylinders yet, but they did have an 80/1 shot finish second earlier in the week, so they might be turning the corner now.


The feature race of the day is the Betway Haldon Gold Cup, and it doesn’t disappoint. Headed by 2020 winner Greaneteen  , the race has a wide-open feel with two second-season chasers in the pack with obvious chances.

The aforementioned Greaneteen was beaten in the race last year in what, on reflection, looks a vintage renewal, but his trainer Paul Nicholls has reported him to be working well and “as good as ever”, which is well worth noting. He is rated higher than his two closest rivals but does have to give them both plenty of weight. A win here would be impressive and would put him spot on for a tilt at the Tingle Creek in December.

Third Time Lucki won easily on his first few starts, but always seems to struggle when the going gets tough. Trainer Dan Skelton is the master of getting horses fit and ready for a target and this has no doubt been a target for some while.

The same sentiment can be said for War Lord , who was a good fourth in the Arkle and comes from the same stable that won this race last year.

This is the first race of the season on the road to the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham in March.


Betway are paying a massive five places on the final race of the day, a handicap hurdle over 2m. It is a low-grade race with very little standout form on offer, but there could be a few at bigger prices to keep on side.

Begin The Luck  did some good late work at Warwick last time and could be coming back into form.

Mini Yeats   showed enough on three of his four starts last season to suggest he could be a player in handicaps off this sort of mark this season. His two runs at Wincanton do stand out and it’s interesting that he was supported in the betting on each of his starts last season.

Testflight  showed more in bumpers than over hurdles last season, but the yard does very well at Exeter and any market support would be telling.