Newbury's card is chock-full of competitive handicaps, but faint heart never won fair maiden and all that, so we're going to give it a bash.
14:05 - There's nothing in this opening handicap that we can hang our hat on. We're going to have to take a couple of risks: the first one is that Water Garden will strip fitter for his recent reappearance, the second that The Romford Pele will stay three miles. Water Garden possibly has a bit of unfinished business this spring, and we can only hope that connections have him fit enough to finish it now, while The Romford Pele is on a stiff mark on the face of it but is most unexposed over trips beyond two miles.
14:40 - You'd think we'd find reliable sorts hard to come by in this staying contest for veterans and you'd be right up to a point, but Mortimers Cross and Desperate Dex still look to slot in at least as comfortably as our first-leg selections. Mortimers Cross is best caught fresh and comes here off the back of a two-month break, while he was operating at as high a level as he's ever done earlier this winter. Desperate Dex can lay claim to even better: he's been in the form of his life this season, winning twice in the autumn and finishing second on all three starts since, while previous form on good ground suggests he has scant excuse for not running well again.
15:15 - A tricky leg, with plenty that are interesting but relatively few of genuine interest from our point of view. Sporting Boy might be shorter than he warrants due to the number of ones beside his name, while he's been off since November, but if connections want him to get into the County Hurdle he'd best be fit enough to run for his life today. Second spot goes to Turn Over Sivola, who has weakened tamely on his last two starts but isn't quite drinking in the Last Chance Saloon yet: today's combination of better ground and a likely decent pace mean that he's worth at least one more opportunity to prove how well handicapped he is.
15:50 - Despite his advancing years, it looked as though Big Fella Thanks put up a career-best effort at Wincanton last time, when beating subsequent winner Consigliere (clear of rest). Whatever the reality of that, he's shaped as though in good form all season and his way of going about things, although liable to make him an expensive one to follow, lends him to being a pretty good Placepot prospect. We'll also include Saved By John, who himself improved without obvious reason at Wincanton last time but is reliable and could find himself carrying less of the pool than he deserves to.
16:25 - A potentially perilous leg, with several shaping like they remain with something up their sleeve in recent runs. Of those, Hatters River stands out as a Placepot option as he's shaped as though ahead of his mark on each of his last three runs and is proven over the trip and on the ground. I Know The Code is also worth selecting above the rest as he's already shown some of what he's got in handicaps recently, while suggesting that he's not finished improving just yet.
17:00 - We could do with a banker in this five-runner closing leg, and one might just present itself in the form of Marie des Anges. She looked much improved over fences when dotting up at Wetherby last time and looks to have been let in lightly on this first start in a handicap over fences. Generally progressive over fences and with no problems forecast at this shorter trip, Marie des Anges will take plenty of stopping if in the same form as she was 11 days ago.
14:05 - 3, 4
14:40 - 7, 8
15:15 - 5, 11
15:50 - 1, 11
16:25 - 12, 13
17:00 - 3
= 32 lines
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