Rocky Creek for Paul Nicholls was pulled up last time at Aintree over a trip that was probably on the short side and prior to that he was second behind Don Cossack at Down Royal although he only beat two others that day and the winner won as easily as he liked. He has to give weight to the majority of his rivals here and he would need to be back to his absolute best to take this in my opinion.
Ballynagour, trained by David Pipe, was pulled up in the King George on Boxing day and was well beaten before that at Haydock, a race also won by Cue Card. Prior to that he was again beaten by Cue Card but that was a much better performance and something similar would put him in the frame today. He is the highest rated in the field and gets six pounds from Rocky Creek so if running to his full potential he has a good chance.
The Giant Bolster seems to have been around forever and is a consistent and likeable horse. He was well beaten in fourth place at Cheltenham two weeks ago in the Betbright Trial which was won by Smad Place and it has been over two years since his last victory.
Houblon Des Obeaux has flattered to deceive recently with a couple of average performances at Newbury and Ascot before finishing fourth at Warwick where the extra distance would not have been to his liking. The smaller field and not giving away lumps of weight in handicaps like he has been will help and I think he has a good chance in this today at a pretty good price. He looks to be returning to be form and if he is on his game he will take all the beating.
Dodging Bullets return to action here after being out of action for just under a year through injury. He carries top weight and the former Champion Chase winner is a short price to pick up where he left off.
I think if he isn't in perfect condition, and it is pretty reasonable to assume he will come on plenty for this run, then the exciting novice L'Ami Serge could give him a really good race. He was fourth in the Supreme Novices' Hurdle at Cheltenham last year after being hampered by a faller and has won by of his chase starts so far very easily. This is obviously a huge step up but I think he will show his credentials as second favourite behind Douvan in the Arkle and take this. his jumping looks sound, he relishes the tough condition and he definitely has the speed.
There is a large field for this year's Betfair Hurdle and as expected it is wide open. Any number of horses in the field could take this and I am going to take a chance on one of the outsiders who I think is massively overpriced. Cheltenian is top weight but is used to carrying these big loads around and was a really good second place at Cheltenham recently when giving over a stone to all of his rivals. He is such a battling horse so if he can keep up with the pace and stay out of trouble, it wouldn't surprise me to see him stay with the leaders and he has a shot of being there at the business end of proceedings.
Newbury 14:25 - Houblon Des Obeaux - 1 point @ 4/1 (Skybet, Coral, William Hill)
Newbury 15:00 - L'Ami Serge - 1 point @ 11/2 (Betvictor)
Newbury 15:35 - Cheltenian - 1/2 a point each way @ 40/1 (Bet365, William Hill, Betway)