Old Gold Racing Handicap Hurdle | 2m5½f | 3yo+ | SKY
This 0-140 event looks pretty competitive and it's evident that the top trainers are trying to make up for lost time with their summer jumpers as Paul Nicholls, Colin Tizzard, Ben Pauling, Philip Hobbs Jonjo O'Neill and David Pipe are all represented in the nine-strong field.
The obvious starting point is with topweight Doubly Clever, who is considered a course specialist at Newton Abbot with four victories from just five starts at the Devon track, the latest of which came just 12 days ago.
Fresh from two outings on the Flat, Doubly Clever was well fancied (11-2 from 7-1) on his jumping debut for Pauling having made the switch to his Gloucester base from Johnny Farrelly's yard after finishing down the field in the Pertemps Final at the Cheltenham Festival in March.
Held up in rear by 7lb conditional rider Luca Morgan, who retains the ride, Doubly Clever sauntered into contention and won with real authority, despite the fact Morgan dropped his whip turning for home.
He was hit with a 7lb rise in the weights for that score but should be rock-hard fit now after three runs and could be open to further improvement under Pauling's care.
The market will likely have the Nicholls-trained Parody as his main threat, and rightly so.
An unexposed six-year-old daughter of Presenting, Parody showed a good level of ability when winning a couple of largely uncompetitive novice hurdles at this track in July last year and wasn't disgraced on her return at Bangor last month. She needs quick ground and a mark of 114 may underestimate her ability.
Of the others, quick ground may not suit Bhutan or Jaytrack Parkhomes, while At Its Own Expense could be the dark horse in the field if he's been primed to go close after a 202-day absence.
Race analysis by Tom Collins
What they say
Ben Pauling, trainer of Doubly Clever
He did it very nicely at the course the other day and I don't think he's been overly stung by the handicapper with a 7lb rise. He came out of that race in great order, which I think is important to him as he's a wily old character. He seems in very good form with himself and it's the same track and trip as last time, so I'm quite hopeful.
Neil Mulholland, trainer of Bootlegger
He's lightly raced and won very well at Doncaster in January before another good run when third at Kempton in March. He's had a nice summer break since and done well for that, so we're very happy with him.
David Pipe, trainer of Teaser and Percy Street
They're at the right end of the weights, but probably need to run a bit better than what they have been of late. They'll both like the decent ground, however, and the trip should be okay for them. Even though it's a small field, it looks competitive enough.
Dan Downie, syndicate manager of Owners Group 019, owners of Parody
She's an out-and-out summer jumper and wants decent ground, so she had a good break over the winter and grew and strengthened up. Physically we've been delighted with her, but we knew she'd need her first run back at Bangor last time and we were happy enough with that. She should now be spot on, so we're hopeful and this should really suit her.
Gail Haywood, trainer of Midnight Sapphire
I've just been walking the course and I don't think the ground will suit her; I'd like it to rain as I think they'll go too quick for her. She's off a light weight and is in good form, but I'd be happier if it poured with rain. She ran really well over the winter and she will win - it's just when. I'd like it to be in this, but I think it would have to chuck it down.