Royal Opera hasn't done a lot wrong so far over hurdles and a recent run on the all-weather should have blown away any cobwebs. But this is no easy task under a penalty as several of his rivals have hinted at ability. Brother Scott and Blazin White Face have been placed in bumpers and the latter was third over timber at Musselburgh last month but preference is for GROOVY DANCER. Timmy Murphy's mount would have gone very close at Musselburgh on his hurdling debut in November had he not been badly hampered at the last and could be good enough to shrug off a subsequent absence.
Brother Scott 11-2 (10-8) With winner until over 3f out, soon outpaced, 4th of 8, 32l behind Howaboutnow (11-11) at Sedgefield 2m 1f NH flat (6) gd.
Muwalla 15-2 (11-9) Held up towards rear, pushed along before 3 out, weakened before last, 7th of 11, 31l behind Zefooha (11-7) at Doncaster 2m nov hcp hdl 0-105 (4) gd.
Royal Opera 7-2 (10-8) Tracked leaders, driven and outpaced 3 out, ridden and stayed on to go 2nd next, no impression with winner, 2nd of 11, 9l behind Grams And Ounces (10-0) at Leicester 2m hcp hdl 0-125 (3) gd in Dec.
Blazin White Face (IRE) 16-1 (10-9) Held up mid-division, headway 4th, went 4th before 3 out, weakened and lost 4th place after last, 8th of 13, well behind Red Rocco (11-2) at Ayr 2m 4f mdn hdl (5) hvy.
Goodlukin Lucy 11-1 (11-2) Led, took keen hold, headed before 2 out, soon weakened, 6th of 11, 34l behind Lucia Bay (11-2) at Newcastle 2m mdn hdl (4) sft in Jan.
Groovy Dancer 14-1 (10-12) Held up, headway on inside when not fluent 7th, tracked leading trio 2 out, disputing 3rd when badly hampered and almost brought down last, kept on, not recover, 3rd of 8, 7l behind D'Gigi (10-12) at Musselburgh 2m 4f mdn hdl (5) gd in Nov.
I Got Sunshine 66-1 (10-7) Towards rear, headway before and not fluent 6th, weakened 4 out, pulled up 2 out, in a race won by Red Rocco (11-2) at Ayr 2m 4f mdn hdl (5) hvy, 13 ran.
Royal Curtsy 66-1 (10-11) Tracked leaders, pushed along 7th, soon weakend, 6th of 7, well behind The Tracey Shuffle (11-4) at Ayr 2m 4f mdn hdl (4) sft in Feb.
Ryton Runner (IRE) 7-2fav (9-0) Chased leaders, led approaching 2f out, headed inside final furlong, soon faded, 5th of 13, 3 1/2l behind Record Breaker (9-5) at Wolverhampton 1m 6f hcp 0-75 (5) pol in Oct (flat).