HIDDEN KEEL was a shade disappointing last time but this is a weaker contest, so he can score from Gilbarry and Spot The Ball. Our selection wouldn't want the ground much softer, but the form he's shown in two hurdles starts to date sets the standard here. He wasn't beaten far behind a reasonable sort at Towcester before taking fourth to Black Jack Blues last time and, as he showed ability when winning a bumper, the grey could be good enough to convert this winning opportunity. Gilbarry is a bumper winner too having struck on debut and this five-year-old showed enough last time to merit attention here. Again, he wouldn't want the going soft, but that fifth behind some decent rivals reads well in the context of this affair and he should take a hand in the finish. Spot The Ball is one of two entered by Jonjo O'Neill and looks the pick of them ahead of Lots Of Fun. The last named is well bred but hasn't shown much to date and might be better when sent handicapping, so Spot The Ball's two solid efforts behind better rivals make him more interesting. Paul Webber's yard are going well enough so Scampi Boy merits respect in a poor race; he was a relatively expensive purchase and should be suited by taking to hurdles for the first time so a market check is advised. Both Irish Symphony and The Fox's Decree need this run for a handicap mark and have been mildly regressive of late and a better bet looks to be our selection, Hidden Keel.
Gilbarry (IRE) 100-1 (11-3) Held up in rear, mistake 4th, headway approaching 3 out, weakened before 2 out, 6th of 15, 26l behind Dan Breen (11-3) at Doncaster 2m nh nov hdl (4) gs.
Hidden Keel 4-1 (11-3) Held up towards rear, headway approaching 5th, hung left and no impression approaching 3 out, not fluent when weakening 2 out, 4th of 15, 23l behind Black Jack Blues (11-3) at Ludlow 2m NH mdn hdl (4) gs.
Laureldean River (IRE) 50-1 (10-12) Held up mid-division, ridden appraoching 3 out, never dangerous, 13th of 14, well behind Bobby Ewing (10-12) at Doncaster 2m 3f nh nov hdl (4) gd in Dec.
Lots Of Fun (IRE) 100-1 (10-13) Held up, towards rear, not fluent 2nd, ridden and struggling before 6th, 12th of 13, well behind Rackham Lerouge (11-2) at Bangor 2m 1f NH nov hdl (4-7yo) (4) gs.
Scampi Boy (IRE) 15-2 (11-4) Mid-division,headway over 9f out, led over 2f out, soon headed, weakened well over 1f out, 6th of 12, 32l behind Rock On Ruby (11-4) at Taunton 2m 1f mdn NH flat (5) gs.
Short Straw (IRE) 250-1 (10-7) Always in rear, reminders 5th, lost touch 6th, pulled up before 2 out, in a race won by Great Endeavour (11-8) at Towcester 2m 5f NH nov hdl 4-6yo (3) sft in Nov '08, 14 ran.
Spot The Ball (IRE) 33-1 (10-13) Chased leaders, pushed along before 3 out, no impression, left modest 5th after last, 5th of 13, 23l behind Diamond Brook (11-4) at Exeter 2m 3f nh nov hdl (4) sft.
The Fox's Decree 33-1 (11-4) In rear, outpaced 3 out, never dangerous, 6th of 13, 41l behind Extreme Impact (10-7) at Chepstow 2m nov hdl (4) hvy in Jan.
Totally Beat 33-1 (11-3) Held up, towards rear, took keen hold, some headway 3 out, soon weakened, pulled up before last, in a race won by Fahrisee (11-0) at Hereford 2m 1f NH mdn hdl (4) gs, 15 ran.
Young Anthony 250-1 (11-4) Chased leaders, weakened 4 out, last of 12, well behind Inventor (11-11) at Musselburgh 2m nh nov hdl (4) gs in Jan.
Irish Symphony (IRE) 80-1 (10-5) In touch, weakened 3 out, 6th of 11, 38l behind Zazamix (10-12) at Bangor 2m 1f nov hdl (4) sft in Dec.