Staying hurdling star Big Buck's is the main attraction this weekend as he bids for his 14th consecutive win in the Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot and he is a very short price to continue his fine run.
Sky Bet have installed him as the 1/4 favourite for the three mile, one furlong Grade 1 contest.
He obviously deserves to be that price and although no horse is invincible he will take all the beating.
He has won this race (which this year has been named after the tough Lough Derg) for the past two years (at Newbury) and there is no reason he shouldn't make that three. He faces six rivals including stablemate Five Dream who was second to him last time out.
David Pipe was of course the trainer of Lough Derg and he will be trying to cause an upset with the promising grey Dynaste - an 11/2 chance.
I hope we see the outstanding Big Buck's continue his marvellous winning streak, but I'm with Dynaste each way.
Quotes of the week
The five-year-old is taking a big leap in class but he looked the part over the fixed brush hurdles at Haydock last time out with the step up to three miles suiting him well there.
He is an improving young stayer and is my idea of the biggest challenger to the favourite and I don't think he is a bad each way price.
Restless Harry and Sparky May are both 16s - Sparky May was only fourth behind Big Buck's at Newbury and Restless Harry reverts to hurdles having disappointed in his two subsequent starts over fences where he was well supported.
His first run this season saw him beat Fair Along in good style over hurdles at Wetherby. However, he hasn't managed to beat Big Buck's in the past and that shouldn't be any different here. So I hope we see the outstanding Big Buck's continue his marvellous winning streak, but I'm with Dynaste each way.
The punters puzzle is the Ladbroke Hurdle, also at Ascot. The two-mile Handicap Hurdle has attracted its usual big field with the market headed by Prospect Wells at 7/2 with Sky Bet.
This former Group winning flat performer is now with Paul Nicholls for whom he has won two Novice Hurdles (he one of the Graham Wylie owned jumpers who was previously with Howard Johnson).
He is a leading contender for the Supreme Novices' Hurdle at the Cheltenham festival (for which he is 10/1 with Sky Bet) and Nicholls said after his last win that he will be better in a competitive field when they go flat out and that should be just what he gets here. This is his handicap debut off a mark of 142.
Nicholls is also responsible for his stablemate Brampour (8/1), who finished third in the International Hurdle last Saturday to Grandouet. He will be ridden once again by 7lb claimer Harry Derham and will carry 9lb less than his new official handicap mark of 168 (which kicks in on Tuesday) owing to the fact that this race is an early closing race.
Derham couldn't claim his 7lb allowance last weekend, but he can here and despite top weight he isn't badly treated.
Gibb River will be bidding to give trainer Nicky Henderson another fantastic weekend after he saddled the winners of all three feature races at Cheltenham last weekend including Grandouet who is now 6/1 for the Champion Hurdle after his win in the International.
Gibb River is also 8/1 and is an improving hurdler. He was well beaten in the Supreme Novices' back in March and had his first run back at Sandown at the beginning of this month. He is entitled to come on for that and has been working well since then.
Yorkshire trainer Brian Ellison is well represented with the Grade One winner Marsh Warbler (16/1) and Greatwood-third Abergavenny (10/1) in the race, but Marsh Warbler could do with plenty of rain. Imperial Cup winner Alarazi is 20s for Lucy Wadham. Gary Moore's Via Galilei (14/1) has been running consistently well in big handicaps and was one place in front of Gibb River at Sandown last time out and the Alan King trained Raya Star is another horse to watch out for and is priced at 12s.
Everything points towards a decent run for Prospect Wells but he is a short price in such a competitive race. It may be worth taking a chance on Gary Moore's runner - Via Galilei at the prices.
At Haydock the Tommy Whittle Chase is the feature and the horses will have to cope with testing conditions for this three mile Handicap Chase.
The horse I like here is Wymott for Donald McCain who is having a great time of things with his horses at the moment. Wymott was a very smart novice last season but pulled up in the RSA Chase. However, he sustained a small fracture to the top of his cannon bone in the race and was off the track until running in the Hennessy last month. He finished sixth there and McCain would have preferred to get a run into him before Newbury, he would also have appreciated more cut in the ground and was staying on well.
He certainly gets his ground at Haydock and runs off the same handicap mark of 144 and I think he could be well treated. He can give his trainer another big Saturday winner. If conditions are too testing on Saturday we won't see McCain's Peddlers Cross in the two-mile Novices' Chase at Haydock. It's heavy at the time of writing so it would seem unlikely.
There is a disappointing turnout for the Grade 1 Navan Novice Hurdle on Sunday with just four runners. Mount Benbulben is one of the protagonists for Gordon Elliott. This horse won a Grade 2 at this track last time out and looks like he will improve for stepping up to a trip beyond Sunday's 2½
Boston Bob looks to be his closest rival for Willie Mullins. This horse is another former Howard Johnson inmate owned by Graham Wylie. He won on his debut for this stable in a Maiden Hurdle at Navan and now takes the step up in class. He had the option of the Grade 1 Royal Bond but came here instead and I fancy his chaces for Ireland's Champion trainer. He is expected to make up into a smart chaser in time and is already an Irish point to point winner, but he can pay his way over hurdles first.
Ipsos Du Berlais represents Noel Meade who does amazingly well with his hurdlers. This horse loves heavy ground and that will be in his favour on Sunday. Jetson completes the line up for Jessie Harrington.
There are lots of 'ifs' and 'buts' in the next sentence, but if Carlisle beats the weather on Sunday and if Anychancedave runs in the 12.50, I fancy him to win.
Dynaste in the Long Walk Hurdle @ 11/2 with Sky Bet (each way)
Via Galilei in the Ladbroke Hurdle @ 14/1 with Sky Bet
Wymott in the Tommy Whittle Chase
Boston Bob in the Navan Novice Hurdle