Our Island holds edge for Vaughan
With cards that had been scheduled for Sandown and Wetherby falling to the cold snap yesterday, Ffos Las is the sole remaining cross-channel hope for jumps fans.
If the Welsh venue passes this morning's 9.0 inspection, punters will at least have some decent fare to get stuck into. Oscar Whisky is the star attraction in the Welsh Champion Hurdle, but the West Wales National is by far the most challenging heat.
A total of 13 runners are set to go to post for the three-and-a-half-mile handicap chase, with the remarkable 14-year-old Victory Gunner bidding for a third course win.
Having scored comfortably here on St Stephen's Day, Richard Lee's dour chestnut cannot be discounted, but he needs a career-best effort to score off his new mark.
Given his age, that will be hard to achieve. In an open race full of similarly exposed sorts, it may pay to explore the few horses at the other end of the age spectrum.
The first-time blinkered Swincombe Rock, Rey Nacarado and Our Island are all half Victory Gunner's age. With Swincombe Rock unsuited by testing going and the Newbury winner Rey Nacarado possibly within the handicapper's reach now, Our Island is the one to concentrate on.
A Dromahane point-to-point winner in November 2010, Tim Vaughan's charge won its first two starts over flights this time last year, before going on to finish seventh behind Bobs Worth at Cheltenham in March.
In five outings over fences this term, he has yet to win, but it is significant that his best effort came when second on his penultimate run off a rating of 128 in heavy ground at Haydock.
Following that, Our Island wasn't disgraced when sixth in the Welsh National, and he competes today off the same mark of 130. In a far less competitive event, he should have a big say under Richard Johnson.
In all probability, the day's feature will be a stroll for Oscar Whisky, with Nicky Henderson's Champion Hurdle third getting ready for a set-to with Big Buck's at Cheltenham. Nonetheless, Starluck has some appeal on his reappearance.
The mount of Daryl Jacob for a first time this afternoon, the seven-year-old didn't cut it over fences last term, but his previous hurdle form was rock solid.
A winner on his seasonal bow in each of his first two seasons over flights, he has been placed in Grade One company, and was fifth to Binocular in the 2010 Champion Hurdle.
Last year, on his latest turn over hurdles, he continued his excellent first-time-out record when pushing Peddlers Cross hard in the Fighting Fifth, with Binocular six lengths back in third.
With that in mind, given that Starluck receives eight pounds from Oscar Whisky, David Arbuthnot's representative could rattle the favourite.
A novice hurdle gets proceedings under way, with little strength in depth in evidence among the 12-strong line-up. Henderson's One Lucky Lady, which got off the mark in a poor race at the second time of asking at Folkestone two weeks ago, should have too many guns for her rivals under Barry Geraghty.
The Tracey Shuffle, beaten at Lingfield by a horse that came out and won again, is the obvious danger, but the allowances that One Lucky Lady receives for being a four-year-old mare could be decisive.
Later on, Maringo Bay gets the nod in the novice chase, having finished second to the useful Alfie Spinner at Chepstow last time.
Best Bet: One Lucky Lady