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Oakley's upward curve to continue at Newbury


Sceau Royal can account for odds-on favourite Altior

Sceau Royal can account for odds-on favourite Altior

Sceau Royal can account for odds-on favourite Altior

The Betfair Hurdle is a fiendish handicap conundrum, but Oakley may be able to solve the puzzle at a decent price this year.

One of three contenders for Philip Hobbs, in a maximum field of 24 at Newbury, Oakley remains on a pleasing upward curve.

Good cases, of course, can be made for half the field or more in an annual target race for so many big yards.

Oakley has not necessarily been a 'buzz' horse among them either, but there is every reason to discern a solid chance nonetheless.

The lightly-raced seven-year-old has not won in his three outings so far this season, but has therefore risen a total of only 7lb in the ratings and has continued to show abundant promise each time.

Oakley is one of several who will be better off this weekend with front-running revelation Not So Sleepy, in his case from their Ascot running in November.

He continually showed up well in good bumper and then novice-hurdle company over the past two campaigns, got the better of the re-opposing Never Adapt last time at Cheltenham and is likely to find drying conditions to his liking.

As well as hoping to crack the Betfair, many of those watching Newbury today will be doing so in the hope of seeing the real Altior back in the Win Bigger On The Betfair Exchange Chase - formerly known, and still registered, as the Game Spirit.

Reports emanating from Nicky Henderson's stable this week suggest they may well get their wish as the dual Champion Chase winner seeks to prove he is over his mighty exertions in defeat against Cyrname at Ascot more than two months ago.

That provides no guarantee, however, that he will definitely be ready to see off Sceau Royal.

Alan King's admirable two-miler has, curiously, never previously run here - but the flat, galloping course seems sure to play to his strengths.

Sceau Royal was slightly below par over Christmas at Kempton, but ought to be right back on his game here - and at their current vastly divergent prices, he is the value to take advantage of a golden opportunity against the odds-on favourite.

For similar reasons, Nube Negra is the obvious choice in the Agetur UK Kingmaker Novices' Chase at Warwick.

Dan Skelton's six-year-old began his chasing career with a promising win over course and distance in October.

He then landed short odds at Fakenham, before producing a mighty effort as runner-up to Esprit Du Large in the Grade One Henry VIII at Sandown.

Nube Negra has jumped notably well on each occasion - and in expectation of further fluency at a tricky track which very much requires it, he can outpoint rivals who may prove superior down the line.