BUZZ (3.35) could be the pick of Nicky Henderson’s trio and is fancied to provide the yard with its sixth Betfair Hurdle scalp at Newbury.
The top weight warmed up with an excellent second to Not So Sleepy at Ascot before Christmas and Henderson is using Kevin Brogan’s 5lb allowance to reduce the grey’s burden. The Lambourn maestro also saddles Mister Coffey, third to Benson at Sandown in early December, and Fred, back over hurdles after a disappointing fourth to Allmankind in a novice chase.
Bookmakers are finding it hard to split Cadzand and Soaring Glory at the head of the market, and with 24 runners declared there are plenty of each-way options (some firms offering six places).
The Betfair Game Spirit Chase over two miles sees the return to action of last season’s RSA Chase winner Champ. This trip is far from ideal and Henderson is using the race as a last-minute stepping stone to a possible Cheltenham Gold Cup tilt. Nicholls saddles a useful two-mile specialist in GREANETEEN (3.00), runner-up to stable companion Politologue in the Tingle Creek at Sandown. Smart hurdler/chaser Sceau Royal receives 3lb from his two principal protagonists and cannot be discounted.
At Market Rasen, MINELLA DRAMA (2.05) looks the answer to the 2m 4f Listed Novices’ Hurdle. Donald McCain’s gelding had his hat-trick bid thwarted by Faivour in a tight finish at Haydock and is just preferred to prolific winners Here Comes Johny and Stoner’s Choice.
GYPSY DE CHOISEL (3.15) was no match for red-hot Metier at Ascot on his first UK start but can claim the two-mile handicap hurdle at the main expense of Kempton winner Ajero.