It is surely no coincidence Keeper Hill (1.55) showed so much improvement after a wind operation when he scored at Haydock last month. He battled on gamely to give 11lb and a beating to a higher-rated horse, an effort that left his previous handful of chase runs far behind.
Today’s Caspian Caviar Gold Cup is a very different test but he may be suited by having a strong pace to follow and odds of 16-1 surely understate his chance. Brelan D’As, second here last month, ought to go close again, while Generous Day could be the each-way value at 20-1.
Cepage has been raised 8lb for running second at Aintree last month, which seems harsh. Good Man Pat may get involved if his jumping holds up.
2.10 Doncaster Unexpectedly, Sam Spinner has a perfect record after his first two races over fences and that, combined with his achievements over hurdles, has made him a short price for this Grade Two. He is not a natural steeplechaser and his limitations should be exposed by Windsor Avenue.
2.30 Cheltenham The terms of this race hardly favour Valtor, who meets Redford Road on 8lb worse terms than when beating that rival by two lengths last month. But he will be sharper here and the extra quarter-mile ought to help. Though older than the rest, he has a lot of talent and experience for a novice hurdle.
2.45 Doncaster Tombee Du Ciel represents connections who have won this twice in the past five years and has achieved a good level of form in France without winning. But he has not run since April and preference is for Lord Lamington, who had plenty in hand when scoring on his hurdles debut at Market Rasen nine days ago.
3.05 Cheltenham There is every reason to think Pentland Hills is the real deal, for all that we have only seen him three times over hurdles and he was an unexpected winner of the Triumph. His defeat of Fakir D’Oudairies at Aintree already reads well and he is the one in this field who could be a serious Champion Hurdle contender. Le Patriote travelled well for a long way on his reappearance and looks a danger. Elixir De Nutz’s form is questionable.
3.20 Doncaster If he is to make the cut for the Grand National, Cloth Cap had better win something before the weights are set in mid-February and opportunities will not come much better than this four-runner affair.
3.40 Cheltenham Capping what could be a good day for Nicky Henderson, Lust For Glory is expected to build on her handicap debut at Ascot last month, when she stayed on well but too late into second. This extra half-mile looks the right move.
Doncaster 11.50 Pagero 12.25 Blakeney Point 1.00 Pain Au Chocolat 1.35 Curramore 2.10 Windsor Avenue 2.45 Lord Lamington 3.20 Cloth Cap
Hereford 12.00 One Style 12.35 Funambule Sivola 1.10 Heavenly Promise 1.45 First Flow 2.20 Air Horse One 2.55 Master Tradesman 3.30 The Furrows End
Cheltenham 12.10 Langer Dan 12.45 Good Boy Bobby 1.20 Croco Bay 1.55 Keeper Hill 2.30 Valtor 3.05 Pentland Hills 3.40 Lust For Glory (nap)
Newcastle 12.15 Ezzrah 12.50 Funny Kid 1.25 Finespun 2.00 Lady Shanawell 2.35 Dublin Pharaoh 3.10 Caballero 3.45 Qaaraat
Wolverhampton 4.50 Dress Circle 5.20 Monya 5.50 Merricourt 6.20 Phoenix Star 6.50 Desert Doctor 7.20 Mojambo 7.50 Sea Fox 8.20 Lord Howard