Having backed Stilletto ante-post a fortnight ago Tony Calvin wasn't best pleased when the horse didn't turn up at Cheltenham, but our man is hoping it's second time lucky with that selection as he goes through Friday's Newbury card...
"But Stilletto travels like a far better horse than a 141-rated chaser on occasions, such as when sluicing up by 10 lengths at Leicester in heavy ground last season, and maybe another switch of stables can get some consistency back on the board."
Stilletto cost me a fair few quid (£280 to be precise) when connections pulled him out on the morning of the BetVictor Gold Cup at Cheltenham earlier this month - the official reason was that he didn't eat up but I think they were also worried about the ground not being soft enough - but I'm not a bitter man.
Back him at 7.06/1 or better in the 14:45.
Given that the ground is good to soft, and no rain is forecast, they may withdraw him again, I suppose.
But at least I won't do my money this time - I backed him ante-post at Cheltenham - and anyway he travels like decent ground should be ideal for him, and he went off 11/2 favourite at the Festival on good going in March.
However, connections believe that he is a big horse who hits the ground hard, and he definitely wants it soft, though Newbury often rides plenty slow enough.
My argument for him here is, as you would expect, very similar to the one put forward before, with one negative added. The stable were in better form going into Cheltenham than they are now.
But Stilletto travels like a far better horse than a 141-rated chaser on occasions, such as when sluicing up by 10 lengths at Leicester in heavy ground last season, and maybe another switch of stables can get some consistency back on the board. And Johnny Farrelly isn't doing too badly with his new recruits.
He is currently operating at a 23% strike-rate with his chasers and he is doing well with horses he has been sent from owner Roger Brookhouse this season, with Drumlee Lad and Miss Estela both winning first time out for him.
This is a competitive handicap chase though, and I fear Roman Flight in particular stepping back up in trip after a good fourth over 2m1f at Ascot last time, but I have long since thought that Stilletto has had a fair few pounds in hand of the assessor.
Supreme contender no gimme on hurdles debut
It's a good card at Newbury, so I will go through the rest of the meeting in chronological order.
There are some smart bumper horses making their debut in the opening maiden hurdle at 12:30, and none more so than Jenkins, who is already third favourite for the Supreme.
He bolted up here by nine lengths on his debut and then found only one too good at Punchestown in April, where the front two pulled seven lengths clear of recent winner Moulin A Vent. And the stable often throw one of their better novices at the race, too, having won it four times in the last seven years, with Buveur D'Air and Different Gravey of late.
It is not a betting race for me but this is certainly no gimme for him considering Bags Groove, for one, can boast bumper form not far shy of the favourite, and French recruits Captain Forez and Capsy De Mee are something of "talented unknowns" too.
Cracking chases offer some bright prospects
The novices' handicap chase at 13:05 is a cracker and Malcolm Jefferson sends down one of the North's brightest prospects in Double W's.
He won a hot four-runner race at Wetherby last time, making one notable mistake in the straight but generally jumping like an old hand, and he could well make light of a 5lb rise in the weights.
This is a deeper race though, and there are no shortage of similar types you can put up against him, and Harchibald's half-brother What's The Scoop is particularly interesting off just 129 on his chasing debut.
The novices' chase at 13:35 is equally fascinating, with good, lightly-raced hurdlers with an already decent level of form over fences taking on a Grade 1 Punchestown Stayers' Hurdle winner in One Track Mind. The latter is rated 158 over hurdles and if taking to fences then he could be some prospect
However, I haven't got the foggiest who is going to come out on top, so let's move on.
Ubak the pick in race of World Hurdle hopefuls
Thistlecrack announced himself on the staying scene when winning this race last year and if there is going to be a World Hurdle winner in this field then the betting suggests it is Ballyoptic.
Some couldn't get their head around why he was raised 7lb for falling at the last at Wetherby last time - he was 10lb wrong with the winner, Silsol, at the weights and would have gone close, that's why - and he is a progressive young hurdler.
But I can't really have him at around 2/1 myself, especially as you can make a fair form chance for a number of his rivals.
Unowhatimeanharry sidestepped an engagement last weekend to wait for this race on better ground and he is a player with his stable in good form, but I wasn't expecting Ubak to be 14-1+, so he gets my vote.
He put up tremendous efforts when third in the Coral Cup and when winning over an extended 3m at Aintree last season (beating If In Doubt and Silsol) - his second to Lil Rockerfeller in the National Spirit wasn't too bad, either - and I thought he shaped well over 2m4f at Aintree on his reappearance, a race where most of the hurdles were taken out because of the low sun.
He has 9lb to find with the favourite on official ratings, but he doesn't have many miles on the clock for an 8yo, and he could have more to offer. Look to back him 15.014/1 win and 3.7511/4 place in the 14:10.
Market leaders to go well in closing hurdle races
Shantou Bob is interesting after his lay-off in the Pertemps qualifier at 15:20 but some of the stable's runners having been needing the run more than was expected this season and in any case it will take a very well-handicapped horse to lower the colours of Behind Time.
He is 13lb well-in here after his Cheltenham win in a conditional jockeys' race, and I doubt whether any of these will be in a rush to get too near him, to be honest.
Phobiaphiliac and Joe Farrell sets a good standard of hurdling form for the others to aim in the last at 15:50 and they obviously haven't been missed in the market, either, though Reigning Supreme is a £130,000 recruit from the pointing field for Nicky Henderson.
Back Ubak 15.014/1 win and 3.7511/4 place in 14:10 at Newbury
Back Stilletto at 7.06/1 or bigger in 14:45 at Newbury
You can read mySaturday Racing Tips behind the link.