The Heroes Handicap Hurdle at 3pm, which isn’t named after the popular brand of chocolates, has only witnessed one winning favourite since the race was rebranded in 2008 – that year’s victor The Tother One.
He was trained by Paul Nicholls, as is this year’s market leader Topofthegame who has quickly reverted to hurdling after falling over fences at Newbury in November.
He’s a big player, however Gary Moore loves a Sandown winner and Ubak (20/1) is preferred at the prices.
He ran like a Mondeo in an F1 race when pitched into the Grade 1 Long Walk Hurdle last time, but is well handicapped (won off this mark the last time he ran in a race like this), likes soft ground, and his yard are in good nick.
Ubak actually ran in the Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase in 2016, and this year’s renewal at 2.25pm looks set to be a very competitive one, despite the absence of ante-post favourite Benatar.
“We are strong, no one can tell us we’re wrong” – not Timeform’s motto, but lyrics from Pat Benatar’s 1983 hit Love Is A Battlefield. Anyway, the one to beat is impressive Huntingdon winner Terrefort who can give Nicky Henderson a fifth success in this race since 2010.
Wayward Lad winner Cyrname has stamina to prove over this longer trip, so a bigger danger could be Kalondra whose jumping is improving with every start over fences.
Buveur d’Air has nothing to prove in the Contenders Hurdle at 1.50pm. The Champion Hurdle winner has completed straightforward tasks with ease this term, in the Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle and the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton (just shaken up to beat The New One), and shouldn’t need to come off the bridle to win this.
The only plausible option for the forecast is John Constable, a Hay(dock) Wain(er) in May who travelled well when not beaten far in the International Hurdle last time.
Elsewhere on the card, the well-named Top Gamble could take some stopping in the handicap at 1.15pm.
He ran respectably when fourth at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day and should be suited by the drop-in-trip on testing ground here. Stablemate Gino Trail is in better form, but has paid with the handicapper as a result.
Just So Cool (the opposite of Timeform at school) was very well prepared to make a successful return from 22 months off at Huntingdon in January, and he gets the nod in the finale (4.10pm) ahead of Colonial Dreams, Palmers Hill and Kapcorse who are all handicap debutants for powerful yards.
* All prices correct at time of posting.