The Nipper hasn't always looked the most straightforward and, although the fortunate Exeter scorer (seven lengths down when left in front at the last) is more than capable when on a going day, there could be value in taking her on with TACENDA. The six-year-old faces similar conditions as when chasing home potentially top-class mare Benie Des Dieux at Carlisle two starts ago and can easily be forgiven a slightly below par effort going the other way round at Newbury last time. She will be there to pounce on any mistake made by the former.
CONTENTED is worth marking up for winning readily at Sedgefield when Philip Hobbs' team weren't firing on all cylinders and, with Sean Houlihan's valuable claim easing the burden of top weight on his handicap debut, he will be well fancied to complete the double. Hatchet Jack certainly wasn't disgraced when fifth off the same mark at Ascot last time out and he should give another good account, while Max Forte is worth keeping an eye on for those looking for one who could go well at longer odds. He switches back to hurdles with first-time cheekpieces equipped and has top female rider Bryony Frost in the plate.
Rathlin Rose should mount a bold bid providing this doesn't come too soon after his brave effort in the Coral Welsh National, while last-time-out scorers Themanfrom Minella and Cyclop both appear to hold solid claims off light weights. Twojayslad is worth a market check at least on his return from a 266-day break but it might pay to side with ROYAL PALLADIUM. A stamina test on soft ground is just what the 10-year-old likes and he showed that the hunger is still there when a fine third on his seasonal reappearance at Exeter in November.
TRIOPAS has a seriously progressive profile and could claim a fourth successive victory. A further 7lb rise is largely negated by Tommie O'Brien's claim, and the six-year-old looks the one open to most improvement in this field. Behind Time has been poor the last twice and has his sights lowered, while Cap Horner was far from disgraced at Exeter earlier this month. Speedalong was consistent prior to last time and needs to find his old spark to be competitive.
Rainy Day Dylan deserves plenty of respect as a course and distance winner last time out, though his fortunes will likely rely on how much longer this headgear continues to work for and whether or not he gets his own way out in front. It might be worth chancing SHOW ON THE ROAD, who did it well when well backed at Exeter three weeks ago and looks a little more straightforward ride. Sea Wall is a danger at this level, while Acaro has been unlucky to bump into some nice types in his short career so far.
GRAND SANCY has showed plenty of promise in two career starts in bumpers and his second last time was franked when the winner landed a Listed bumper at Cheltenham three weeks ago. The four-year-old has a weight-for-age allowance here and is fancied to strike for a handler who has a 37 percent success rate with hurdlers at this venue in the last five years. Jurby took a big step forward on stable debut for Oliver Sherwood on stable bow last time, while Inaminna and Commodore are others worth a second look.
This looks a very good opportunity for TACENDA to notch a second career success as The Nipper was a fortunate winner at Exeter last time and has yet to truly convince she's as good over fences as hurdles.
HATCHET JACK shaped well when fifth on his 3m Ascot handicap debut last month. The drop back in trip is a slight concern but he should have more to give and is preferred to Contented, who has very much gone the right way in novices for his leading yard, and last month's Uttoxeter runner-up Maguire's Glen.
TWOJAYSLAD made a winning return last season and ran well in this headgear when last seen in April, so this lightly-raced 9-y-o could be worth chancing. Rathlin Rose ran well for a long way in the Welsh National 12 days ago and will be a big player if this doesn't come too soon, while the in-form Cyclop is another to consider.
TRIOPAS has thrived over hurdles this winter, winning 4 of his last 5 starts, and should make a chaser given his pointing background. Behind Time has made a low-key start over fences but it would be no surprise if he did much better now handicapping.
SHOW ON THE ROAD was impressive in novice company at Exeter on New Year's Day and the assessor may have let him in lightly on this handicap debut. Rainy Day Dylan finally delivered over C&D last time and is feared most, with Sea Wall a threat, too.
JURBY evidently retains a good portion of the ability he showed in bumpers for Malcolm Jefferson back in 2015 given he found only one too good on hurdles bow in October, and assuming he goes the right way from that, he is up to winning a race like this. Grand Sancy is clear-second choice starting out over timber in receipt of weight for his powerful yard.