The big betting race on Saturday is the Grade 3 Greatwood Gold Cup at Newbury over almost 2m 4f (14:40), and Happy Diva is sure to go well.
The Kerry Lee trained eight-year-old is a likeable mare and four from 12 over fences, placing on every other occasion she’s completed.
Happy Diva has thus run a string of solid races whether battling her own sex or taking on the geldings like she does here.
After winning three times in her novice campaign last season, she chased home Close Brothers winner Mister Whitaker at Carlisle on reappearance.
Although then brought down in the BetVictor Gold Cup next time out, Happy Diva proved no worse for that tumble as she filled the same spot behind Aso in another Grade 3 handicap at Cheltenham.
She then just lost second in the final strides when eased in grade and third to the enterprising Cyrname at Ascot and the winner has since landed a Grade 1.
Another to advertise the form is Happy Diva herself, who just bested the well-regarded Magic Of Light for foot in a Listed mares’ event at Huntingdon last time out.
The runner-up came into the contest off the back of Grade 2 hurdles and top class chase victories. As the handicapper has left Happy Diva on the same mark of 142, he may have taken a chance on her as she takes aim at the boys once more.
The standout 7/1 best-price with Paddy Power surely won’t last and regular rider Richard Patrick can once again take 3lb off her back with his claim. Happy Diva is thus well worth a wager here.
Nothing much to like about favourite War Sound
The ante-post betting is headed by War Sound, one of two engaged for trainer Philip Hobbs. This 10-year-old is only one from 11 in chases and that poor record is cause for concern among potential backers.
While War Sound won on his reappearance at Aintree, he was beaten favourite on three consecutive occasions last term and looks plenty short enough at 11/2 with Coral based on his previous two runs.
Stable companion Gala Ball must belie a racecourse absence of 707 days here, with handler Hobbs not in the best form.
Champion jockey Richard Johnson rides War Sound, but Gala Ball may be worth backing to win a match with Warriors Tale who he now meets on 16lb better terms.
That rival is one of three in the race for the in-form Paul Nicholls, but pulled up in the Sky Bet Handicap Chase at Doncaster last time out.
Warriors Tale drops back in trip here and runs off 6lb higher than when scoring over the Grand National fences in the Grand Sefton at Aintree.
Noel Fehily is aboard the Trevor Hemmings owned 10-year-old, who is a general 12/1 chance with bookmakers. Another of the Nicholls runners is Dolos and Lorcan Williams takes 5lb off the top weight.
That six-year-old is up 5lb for a four-length victory over shorter last time out and, even with his jockey’s claim, this looks a big ask despite being reasonably prominent in the betting at 8/1 with betway.
San Benedeto won a Grade 1 as a novice chaser, but his form has tailed off since and he’s the least desirable of the Nicholls trio. He has dropped to a mark that is 3lb lower than that career best success, however.
Javert has form claims and looks each-way value
In a typically wide-open renewal, Javert is another with smart form for in-form handler Emma Lavelle. This 10-year-old is four from eight over fences and is another to have run some solid races in defeat this season.
While Javert clearly hasn’t been the easiest to train, he made a winning return to action after a lengthy layoff to score over this trip at Uttoxeter.
He was raised 9lb for a two-length victory which looked harsh, but then ran really well off his current mark when second to Frodon in the Grade 2 Old Roan at Aintree.
Javert was never able to quite reach the winner, who has taken his form to a new level with subsequent victories in the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup and Cotswold Chase both at Cheltenham.
That graded form is respected in relation to this contest and Lavelle has given her horse a break to freshen up since finishing sixth in the BetVictor Gold Cup.
A repeat of his run behind Frodon gives Javert every chance and general odds of 14/1 make him the obvious each-way bet. BetVictor are paying five places on the race with a fifth of the outright odds available for a place.
Nightfly meets Happy Diva on 7lb better terms for finishing 9 1/2 lengths behind her and is another who could go well at a big price for Charlie Longdson.
Some of her back hurdles form is interesting, so the eight-year-old may outrun best odds of 16/1 with Ladbrokes despite needing a career best on the upgrade.
Mercian Prince another who could go well
Amy Murphy saddles Mercian Prince in the Kalashnikov colours and he may have got in lightly after scoring by 17 lengths at Kempton when last in action.
This eight-year-old has a 10lb hike and career high mark to contender with, but the rise is more than fair. Mercian Prince is six from 18 over fences and has placed on four other occasions.
While some say he is better going right-handed, he does have victories at anticlockwise tracks. Mercian Prince is a tempting top price of 12/1 with William Hill for this.
Dan Skelton is doubled-handed courtesy of Azzurri and Value At Risk, but both are big prices in the market and hard to fancy on these terms.
The latter looks the pick of the duo if replicating his Listed victory from the Scottish Grand National meeting at Ayr last spring.
Master Dee has had a wind op since pulling up on reappearance for Fergal O’Brien. Barry Geraghty is back aboard this 10-year-old who put in a career best on his previous outing when scooping Grade 3 handicap success over 3m at Kempton. He’s also 12/1 and shorter elsewhere.
The field is completed by Alan King trained 12-year-old Valdez, Dr Richard Newland’s Dustin Des Mottes and Shanahan’s Turn for Colin Tizzard. Zalvados holds an entry, but is 3lb out the handicap and also engaged on Friday.
None of these are particularly fancied, although Dustin Des Mottes is one sort that bookmakers are wary of given connections. The French import is yet to score in Britain, but his handler does well with similar types and so the six-year-old can’t be ruled out entirely.