ZEB SPIRIT has done little wrong since joining Olly Murphy and being sent hurdling, backing up his Fontwell success with a solid placed effort at Market Rasen, and he looks capable of giving weight and a beating to these rivals. A line can be put through Lady Shanawell's latest effort at Hexham, where she was pulled up after her saddle slipped, and Ben Haslam's Cartmel winner deserves another chance. Of those switching from the Flat, Frankadore makes most appeal.
MARIA MAGDALENA brings a wealth of hurdling experience to the table, with her seven efforts including two victories, and despite disappointing slightly at Huntingdon last time, she looks like the one they all have to beat. The other pair with NH form appear up against it, so it could be up to Flat recruits Cool Possibility and Blazing Dreams to ask most questions of the selection. Both are similarly rated on the level and should give a good account if taking to this game.
Sam Spinner was much the best of these over timber, finishing runner-up in last season's Stayers' Hurdle at Cheltenham, and could easily make a winning start to his chasing career, but a chance is taken on the less-exposed BEAKSTOWN. He quickly progressed through the hurdle ranks last term, impressively winning a Grade 2 at Warwick only two months after his maiden success, and the strapping son of Stowaway will almost certainly improve for this switch to fences. Mr Antolini is another exciting addition to the chasing ranks.
Jatiluwih made it three wins on the bounce in this company at Sedgefield 15 days ago, but this appears a more competitive event on paper and he has a fair amount of weight to give to his rivals. Therefore, it might be worth siding with his stable companion, KEEP ROLLING, who shaped as though the step up in distance would benefit him when racing in bumpers. Dino Boy, West Cork and Eclair On Line add further spice to an interesting event.
SKY PIRATE ran well for a long way in the Kim Muir at the Cheltenham Festival before not appearing to see out the distance in the closing stages. The handicapper eased him 2lb for that effort and the drop in trip, combined with Jonjo O'Neill's 3lb claim, could see him back to winning ways. Dimple is likely to give a bold account from the front end, with jumping being his strongest attribute, while Crievehill and Cracking Find are others to note.
I JUST KNOW reverts to timber off a figure 19lb lower than his fences mark of 145 and forms part of a strong Sue Smith challenge alongside stablemate Silva Eclipse, who proved to be a useful operator over hurdles last term. Course winners Teescomponents Lad and Lough Salt (won this in 2017) are of real interest, while Jacks Last Hope is 8lb lower than when third in this last season and was a winner at Sedgefield last month.
THEFLYINGPORTRAIT landed the spoils in this 12 months ago and despite being rated 7lb higher this time around, Jennie Candlish's veteran arrives in top form following a commanding win at Kelso last month. The Paddy Pie rates as the pick of Sue Smith's pair and proved to be a consistent performer over any distance last season, while Ecu De La Noverie beat the useful Mister Fisher over hurdles last term before shaping nicely over fences and he remains well treated.
CAPTAIN MOIRETTE looked a useful prospect in the novice ranks last term, with the only blot on his copybook coming in a hot renewal of the Scottish Champion Hurdle, and could go one better than the stable's handy operator Midnight Shadow, who was second in this 12 months ago. Lucky Lover Boy was another to impress last season and returns to hurdling having won his last three in this sphere, while Donald McCain's pair of Nayati and Beach Break have match fitness on their side.
ZEB SPIRIT was collared close home at Market Rasen after looking well in control at the last and can surely win more races as he hones his craft. Lady Shanawell should have a big run in her with luck, while The Rutland Rebel is one of the more interesting runners having their first crack at hurdling.
HIGHWAY TO SUCCESS showed a good level of ability on the Flat and hasn't been seen to best effect yet over hurdles, so he could find enough improvement to overhaul dual winner Maria Magdalena, who is comfortably the most experienced hurdler in the field. Blazing Dreams is the most interesting newcomer to this discipline.
All eyes will be on high-class hurdler SAM SPINNER, who fully restored his reputation with a fine second to Paisley Park in the Stayers' at Cheltenham. He hasn't always been the most fluent jumper but is the class act here for sure and should take the beating with a clear round if he's ready to roll. Beakstown looks a cracking prospect for chasing and is the clear danger.
KEEP ROLLING's bumper form reads well and he appeals as the type to make his mark over timber. This is competitive however, with winning pointer West Cork highly respected on debut for Dan Skelton, and Young Bull likely to do better now tackling longer trips over jumps. Jatiluwih shouldn't be completely dismissed either, despite conceding chunks of weight all around.
CRIEVEHILL was far from discredited in the Kim Muir when last seen and now drops in grade for this reappearance, so he's got excellent claims representing a yard that's going well at the minute. Sky Pirate has a fair bit of potential, so he's feared along with the gutsy Cracking Find.
This is very competitive and a chance is taken on MONKEY PUZZLE, who shapes as if he'll be suited by the step up to 3m now venturing into handicaps. Victarion was turned over at short odds at Fontwell but didn't do a lot wrong, so must enter the reckoning, along with Teescomponents Lad and the improving Becky The Thatcher.
SIR EGBERT's profile over fences last term was a largely progressive one and, returning with his yard amongst the winners, he could be worth siding with to continue the good work. Ecu De La Noverie also appeals as being on a good mark and is feared, ahead of last year's winner Theflyingportrait.
A really competitive finale with the narrow vote in favour of ANTUNES. Dan Skelton's charge appeals as being on a handy mark judged on the pick of his efforts in this sphere and returns with his yard amongst the winners. Lucky Lover Boy is similarly progressive in this sphere and feared, along with low-mileage Captain Moirette.