A useful field of six go to post for the third at Newbury, see our betting tips and the full race preview below.
IN SUMMARY: Champagne At Tara and Red Devil Star are closely matched on their run at Ascot and are likely to put up stern resistance, but they’ll need to have improved to peg back MAX WARD. This race looks easier than the company he’s been holding in recent races and doesn’t look harshly treated off a mark of 134. Judging by his hurdle form he should be able to improve further and has to be respected for the inform Tom George and Adrian Heskin combination.
1 CHAMPAGNE AT TARA – Travelled pwoerfully at Ascot in December (2m, Good to Soft) but found very little off the bridle and was outbattled to finish second. That was still a good effort but it would have been much more reassuring to see him have found more than he did up the home run, as being beaten in a battle seems to be a trait of his. Softer ground will be no problem and is likely to be more of a help and he should go close if improving on his latest Ascot run, but it is hard to trust that he’ll force his head in front when it matters.
2 MAX WARD – Useful chaser who won on his chasing debut at Huntingdon in November (2m, Good) and has been set two tough assignments since. He finished a well beaten third in the Henry VIII Novices’ Chase at Sandown in December (1m 7f, Good to Soft) and was still in their pitching when falling at Kempton on Boxing Day (2m 4f, Good). Dropping back in trip should help as he was looking tired at Kempton on his latest start and drops 2lb from that run which will help. Conditions will suit today and he’s bound to run a good race for the inform Tom George team.
3 THEATRE FLAME – Ran well on his first two chasing starts with two seconds in small fields including at Stratford in September (2m 3f, Good), but has been poor on his latest three runs under both codes. Has been given a seven week break and needs to bounce back if he’s to have any chance of taking this, but it does look tougher than his other chasing starts to date and he may just be found lacking in this company. Others have stronger claims.
4 RED DEVIL STAR – Edged out Champagne At Tara on his latest start at Ascot and has been raised 3lb for that narrow victory (2m, Good to Soft). Kept on very gamely and was not going to be denied, showing a brilliant attitude to see off his challenger and is sure to go well again today. Softer conditions will be no problem and this consistent performer still has scope for improvement, so has to be respected for Suzy Smith and Micheal Nolan who takes the ride.
5 BRITANIO BELLO – Won a maiden hurdle at Ludlow in February (2m, Soft) but has been poor over fences on both runs this season, jumping with no real conviction on his latest start at Bangor and was behind from four out (2m 4f, Soft). Dropped 3lb and going back in trip which could help but he needs to raise his game significantly if he’s to feature in this and looks destined for a minor honour today despite his basement weight.
6 ZIGGER ZAGGER – Showed some good form in 2015 but has been poor the last twice, including a fifth at Kempton in May when last seen (2m 2f, Good). Conditions are fine on his comeback run but has been set a stiff task from out of the handicap and others have the advantage of race fitness. Best watched on first run for 247 runs.