HOPE ROAD has an official rating of 70 and that should be enough to see him defy an absence and win this, from Dawn Storm and Venture Capitalist. Andy Haynes' runner was last seen over hurdles last summer and, rated 122 in that sphere following some solid efforts, he looks easily the best of these. The doubts are that this is his first run since and he's never tried Fibresand, but with such a lack of plausible opposition he's selected to overcome those obstacles from Dawn Storm. The last-named has had just six starts and showed that he at least copes on this surface when third behind an in-form sort on his penultimate start. Whilst clearly modest, he's at least unexposed and should run into a place at least against such poor opponents. The named-pair represent the most solid betting propositions and the market may reflect that, but if there is a shock it may come from Venture Capitalist. Brian Ellison's four-year-old has gone close a couple of times although he's far from certain to act here, so the market should be used as a guide to his chance. Of the others, Flannel makes some appeal at the likely odds as his rating of 51 looks about right and that puts him bang in the picture but again the track is a concern. As such, Arisea might be of more interest as this mare coped with it well enough when third last time. Kinkeel makes his flat debut at the age of 11 but represents a shrewd yard that does well enough here, so he needs a market check as does Mymateeric for the in-form Jeff Pearce yard. Gouranga looks the stable second-string and the rest look worse than bad, so we'll take a chance on the fitness of Hope Road here.
Dawn Storm (IRE) 7-2 (8-12) Mid-division, ridden and lost place over 4f out, weakened over 1f out, 9th of 11, 22l behind Russian Music (9-4) at Southwell 1m 6f hcp 0-60 (6) fbs.
Delorain (IRE) 100-1 (9-3) Slowly into stride, mid-division, lost place after 7f, soon behind, tailed off, 9th of 11, well behind William's Way (10-9) at Southwell 2m Amateur Handicap (0-65) (4yo+) (6) fbs.
Hope Road 5-2 (8-13) Tracked leader, driven to challenge 2f out, soon hung right and weakened over 1f out, 5th of 9, 6l behind Pinch of Salt (9-10) at Kempton 1m 3f hcp (5) pol in Oct '07.
Kinkeel (IRE) 16-1 (9-13) Led to 6th, chased leaders, ridden and outpaced after 4 out, no impression from next, 4th of 9, 8l behind Keyneema (10-11) at Hereford 2m hcp 0-100 (4) sft in Dec.
Lyical Assassin (IRE) 16-1 (10-10) Never a factor, 9th of 13, 23l behind Bobs Pride (11-2) at Bellewstown 1m 6f stks gd in Aug '08.
Arisea (IRE) 9-1 (9-2) Mid-division, lost place over 7f out, soon struggling, ridden and kept on final 2f, took 3rd post, no chance with leading pair, 3rd of 11, 10l behind Stormy Summer (9-0) at Southwell 1m 4f mdn stks (5) fbs.
Gouranga 20-1 (8-6) Slowly into stride, never going well, always behind, tailed off, 7th of 9, 41l behind Dontpaytheferryman (8-9) at Southwell 1m 4f hcp 0-50 (7) fbs.
Ringsend Rose (IRE) 150-1 (10-8) Mistake 1st, soon tailed off, detached when pulled up after 11th, in a race won by Inchidaly Rock (11-6) at Cheltenham 3m 1f nov chs (2) sft in Dec, 6 ran.
Flannel (IRE) 25-1 (8-8) Tracked leader, ridden over 2f out, weakened final furlong, 7th of 16, 8l behind Twist Again (9-0) at Nottingham 1m 6f 3yo hcp 0-60 (6) gd in Aug.
Mymateeric 9-2 (8-1) Tracked leaders, pushed along over 4f out, soon outpaced and weakened, 7th of 8, 12l behind M'lady Rousseur (9-1) at Kempton 2m 3yo hcp 0-65 (6) pol in Oct.
Venture Capitalist 20-1 (9-3) Pushed along towards rear, chased leaders over 5f out, ridden 3f out, soon weakened, last of 11, 42l behind Levitation (8-12) at Wolverhampton 1m 1f mdn stks (5) pol in Dec.
Owls Fc (IRE) 250-1 (8-12) Soon outpaced and early reminders, always behind, 7th of 11, 48l behind Stormy Summer (9-0) at Southwell 1m 4f mdn stks (5) fbs.