Tony Calvin returns with a detailed look at the Ladbrokes Trophy and best bets for the rest of the card at Newbury as well as a selection from Newcastle...
"He won a Kingmaker on heavy ground over 2m and he is one of only two Grade 1 winners in this line-up - alongside Black Corton - courtesy of his Aintree defeat of Cloudy Dream and Top Notch last year."
Angel could fly in the big one at Newbury
Well, the complexion of the Ladbrokes Trophy has changed somewhat from the five-day stage and it is actually quite sad to see just 13 runners lining up for a race with such a prestigious history as the Hennessy.
Granted, the numbers have dwindled in rather bizarre circumstances, with none of Willie Mullins' seven entries at the five-day stage making the race after Kemboy's ferry was cancelled on Thursday afternoon.
It always had the potential to cut up though and, for once, it looks like everyone who played ante-post earlier in the week, and has still got a live runner, is on at a bigger price.
I don't have anything against the market leaders bar their prices - the one that interests me most at a single-figure price is Dingo Dollars, as he bumped into a very progressive Irish chaser when second at Ayr in April and shaped very encouragingly on his return over hurdles - but the one that has grown on me during the week is Flying Angel.
He was actually one of the first off my list when I had a look on Tuesday morning, as I didn't think he would stay this 3m1f214yd trip in a horsebox (awful phrase, but there you go), especially on softening ground.
He was beaten 25 lengths in the Skybet Chase over 3m, and 15 lengths in the Many Clouds Chase at Aintree over 3m1f, his only two efforts over further than 2m5f. But, if you look at it another way, should you really be judging his stamina on the basis of just two runs?
The answer is no.
For starters, those efforts came back-to-back last season, and he had a wind op afterwards, which suggests connections obviously thought he had an issue after those runs. Regardless, if you go back and have a look at his Aintree third, it is not anywhere near as poor as I originally thought.
He was meeting higher-rated horses in Definitly Red and Cloudy Dreams and the heavy ground at the trip - it was run in pretty atrocious conditions - was far from ideal. And his second over 2m5f at Ascot last time in a first-time visor leaves me fairly optimistic that he will last home here.
Not only is he 4lb well-in on that run - making him officially the best handicapped horse coming into the race, ahead of the 3lb well-in The Young Master - but he jumped and travelled much better in his headgear there.
He undoubtedly has the class that makes him a potential blot - well, more of a smudge - on the handicap here. He won a Kingmaker on heavy ground over 2m and he is one of only two Grade 1 winners in this line-up - alongside Black Corton - courtesy of his Aintree defeat of Cloudy Dream and Top Notch last year.
Providing the ground doesn't get too bad on an unsettled Saturday- it didn't look too bad on Friday, but soft will be fine anyway - then he could just see out the trip better than many are expecting and run a massive race.
Back him at [22.0] or bigger; unfortunately, he has been cut during Friday but his current price of 20/1+ still appeals.
Another potential positive is the fact that there is tons of pace in here - all bar three of these have gone forward on recent starts - and a stalking ride from Tom Bellamy could just see Nigel Twiston-Davies net a successive Saturday biggie after Bristol De Mai's Betfair Chase success.
Beware The Bear has a lot going for him, not least because he will be held up, too. He goes brilliantly when fresh, has won his only start at the track by 12 lengths, has had a wind op, and wears first-time cheekpieces.
Tennessee could cut rivals to size
I couldn't put anyone off him at around 16/1 but my other play in the race is the 10-year-old Sizing Tennessee. A 5lb rise for a Fontwell win over 2m5f on his return makes life tougher but, against that, he has had the benefit of a run and he beat a dual subsequent scorer there over a trip probably short of his best.
He only just failed by a neck to give Yanworth 3lb in the Dipper at Cheltenham on New Year's Day - form that makes his mark of 148 seem reasonable - and he ran far better than a 22-length third to Rathvinden in the four-miler at the Festival suggests, only weakening out of it from between the last two (he traded at [2.22] in-running).
This 3m2f trip on soft ground could be ideal for him. Hopefully, Tom Scudamore will be happy to take a lead and he rates a bet at [24.0] or bigger. He doesn't have the potential of the youngsters but he has enough going for him at his price.
Two-handed attack on the handicap hurdle
I can see Boite and Air Horse One going well from falling marks in the 13:50 - and the obvious pair are the favourites Speedo Boy and Champ - but the one that gets my betting attention is Potters Story.
He missed an intended reappearance at Ayr at the start of November because of good ground, so he won't mind if Newbury cops the 8mm rain on Saturday that some are forecasting. His two starts over this kind of trip haven't been too successful, but they both were at Cheltenham over 2m5f and his trainer doesn't think he likes that track.
He has often shaped as though a greater test would suit when running over 2m - though he was also entered in the Gerry Feilden on the card, but he wasn't eligible due to him winning a hurdle before April 30 2017, so hopefully this isn't Plan B - and he was very impressive when beating Rayvin Black by 21 lengths in heavy ground at Ffos Las in December.
We haven't seen him since and he has been raised 11lb, but that hike was very understandable given the nature of that win in a good time - he also wore a first-time tongue-tie there, which is left off here - and I think the six-year-old has plenty of improvement in him.
He has needed his last two seasonal reappearances, but connections don't think he was suited by either track (Cheltenham and Chepstow), and, fingers crossed, he will be straight enough here if he was ready to rock and roll at Ayr over three weeks ago.
I do have reservations about whether he will be straight enough here and that missing tongue-tie worries me, but I will be backing him to small stakes at [16.0] or bigger.
Man Of Plenty is another one to note at a big price, as he ran okay from 3lb out of the handicap in the Greatwood Hurdle, when wearing his occasional cheekpieces, and the step up in trip is very much in his favour.
He ran really well when second of 24 over 2m5f at Punchestown in April when not wearing any headgear, so the missing pieces don't worry me here. He looks too big at [21.0] or bigger, so I am going in two-handed in this handicap.
Rocky has a puncher's chance in the last
Nothing major stands out for me at the prices in the aforementioned Gerry Feilden over 2m at 14:25 - Whatswrongwithyou is rightfully towards the head of the betting - but I think Rock On Rocky could be worth chancing at [21.0] or bigger in the last at 15:35.
I fear Forest Bihan (though the ground could turn against him if the morning rain arrives) and Doitforthevillage (dropped a very generous 2lb from his comeback run at Cheltenham, considering he was bang there two out when a bad mistake killed his chance stone dead), but the selection has a lot going for him, too.
He actually ran in Doitforthevillage's Cheltenham race and he too made a mistake when travelling okay three out. It wasn't a serious error but it seemed to knock the winning fight out of him there and then, though, to his credit, he did plug on into fourth.
The softer ground here will suit him better, as will the fact that he was dropped 3lb for the run, and he is now just 6lb higher than when winning in testing conditions by 11 lengths over course and distance in March. Indeed, he is 1lb lower than when following up at Ludlow.
He was also second in this race last year, and the handicapper has given him a fair chance of going one better. More patient tactics than last time will suit him better, too.
Bishops Road to sparkle in Rehearsal
I genuinely have no betting take on Newcastle's Fighting Fifth at 14:05 - though I would side with Summerville Boy at 9/2+, if pushed - but I do in the Rehearsal Chase at 15:20.
I was very sweet on Bishops Road at the five-day stage but there was always a big doubt as to whether this race would come too soon after his Haydock run last week, so I didn't back him ante-post at the general 12/1.
I will be backing him here at [10.0] or bigger now, quick turnaround or not. No wonder trainer Kerry Lee, who had a welcome on Wednesday (her first since April), has been tempted.
I outlined the case for him in a column on Tuesday but I'll recap.
Basically, I thought he should have won last Saturday, on ground that would have been plenty quick enough for him, so a 2lb rise doesn't bother me in the slightest. In fact, he is a tremendously well-handicapped horse, as his efforts in the last two runnings of this race underline.
He is 7lb lower than when beaten by Beware The Bear last year, and some 17lb lower than when fourth to Otago Trail, Bristol De Mai and Definitly Red in the red-hot 2016 renewal. A reproduction of either of those two efforts will make him very hard to beat here, and the rain this week is a big plus.
Big River and Lake View Lad are the two I fear most, and I was toying with a small saver on the former, given that I accept the race could come too soon for Bishops Road. Big River has a superb record when fresh, with his reappearance form figures reading 21211, and last season he beat Acdc 11 lengths at Kelso on good ground first time up.
He is even more effective in more testing conditions and he clocked an impressive time figure when failing by just two lengths to give Behind Time 23lb on his final start, after which the handicapper actually dropped him 1lb.
Blair Campbell gets back on board for the first time since the combination won by 10 lengths at Kelso last year - I know very little about him, it must be said - and hopefully his 5lb claim will come in very handy.
But his price is now at a level where I can just about let him go unbacked.
Back Potters Story at [16.0] or bigger and Man Of Plenty at [21.0] or bigger in the 13:50 at Newbury
Back Flying Angel at [22.0] or bigger and Sizing Tennessee at [24.0] or bigger in the Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury (15:00)
Back Bishops Road at [10.0] or bigger in the 15:20 at Newcastle
Back Rock On Rocky at [21.0] or bigger in the 15:35 at Newbury