STERNRUBIN can blaze a proverbial trail in the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury.

The Terry Warner-owned five-year-old is some sight in full throttle and is unquestionably made of the right stuff to win a race of this nature.

Trainer Philip Hobbs fires three shots across the bow in the £115,000 handicap over two miles, with Haydock winner War Sound one of the biggest movers and shakers in the ante-post lists.

But it has to be revealing that jockey Richard Johnson has elected to keep his partnership intact with Sternrubin, who played his part in probably the best race of the season so far at Ascot in December.

Johnson and his companion set fractions comparable with the Nunthorpe, but it looked like such gallantry had taken its toll once Jolly's Cracked It gained an advantage along the run-in.

Yet Sternrubin added resilience to his growing list of attributes and fought back brilliantly to dead-heat for first place.

That was his third victory on the spin, while his placed efforts last term behind Lil Rockerfeller also read well as that horse has since thrived in good company.

Hobbs will not be keen to see the ground become any more demanding as it might stunt Sternrubin's raw, free-wheeling demeanour.

He has won before on soft ground, though, so the hope is conditions are somewhere near similar to that day over this course and distance in November when he pulled four lengths clear of John Constable in the Gerry Feilden.

Utterly likeable and utterly dependable, Sternrubin is progressing with such velocity that he should be able to handle an 8lb bump in the weights.

The Betfair Denman Chase frankly looks a bit of a shocker, with likely favourite Rocky Creek hardly a shoo-in on recent performances.

The same might be said of Ballynagour, but he is the nonetheless the highest-rated horse in the line-up, having chased home the likes of Silviniaco Conti and Sizing Europe in Grade One company.

David Pipe will be wary about conditions in Berkshire, but his inmate will definitely find things a lot easier in this compared to the King George and the Betfair Chase at Kempton.

The Game Spirit Chase revolves around Dodging Bullets, but there could be fun to be had by supporting Captain Conan from Nicky Henderson's in-form yard.

Dodging Bullets, last season's champion chaser, is a fine animal, but he has had his issues this winter and will be having a first start for 339 days.

To that end, Captain Conan, who himself has only just returned from a long absence, could capitalise.

The nine-year-old was a really encouraging fourth behind The New One over hurdles at Haydock in January - his first outing since he was pulled up in the 2014 Champion Chase - and should have come on immeasurably for that.

It should never be forgotten that he has won four races in Grade One company and, perhaps just as importantly, he is never put off his stride when the mud is flying.

Stablemate L'Ami Serge also deserves an honourable mention in the Kingmaker Novices' Chase at Warwick.

Last season's Supreme fourth has looked classy in two starts over fences this term, both of which came on heavy ground.

This is tougher, but at this stage he appears the most likely danger to Douvan in the Arkle Trophy at the Cheltenham Festival.

Lunar Deity had no fortune at Lingfield last month but he rates a value call back in Surrey for the Ladbrokes Handicap, with Cartographic taken to chart a route to victory in division one of the Coral Connect Handicap at Wolverhampton.

Decent stuff in Ireland, too, where Smashing can bring up his hat-trick in the Red Mills Chase at Gowran.

A winner at Gowran in November, he claimed Listed glory at Thurles last month and should be following while in such good heart.

It would be a bombshell if Willie Mullins did not win a Graded race on a weekend, with Sempre Medici taken to keep the show going in the Red Mills Trial Hurdle.

A tilt at the Champion Hurdle would not be a fanciful notion if he can replicate his smooth success in the Limestone Lad Hurdle at Naas last month.


NEWBURY: 1.20 Argante, 1.50 Batavir, 2.25 Ballynagour, 3.00 Captain Conan, 3.35 STERNRUBIN (NAP), 4.10 Activial, 4.45 Full Irish.

WARWICK: 1.00 Open Eagle, 1.30 Racing Pulse, 2.05 Jennies Jewel, 2.40 L'Ami Serge, 3.15 Golden Milan, 3.50 Niceonefrankie, 4.25 Dormouse.

LINGFIELD: 1.25 Communicator, 2.00 Ilzam, 2.35 Perfect Alchemy, 3.10 Kingsley Klarion, 3.45 Lunar Deity, 4.20 Quintus Cerialis, 4.50 Kimbelle.

WOLVERHAMPTON: 6.15 Les Gar Gan, 6.45 Hollie Point, 7.15 Deben, 7.45 Bayan Kasirga, 8.15 Handsome Dan, 8.45 Cartographic, 9.15 Coup De Vent.

GOWRAN: 1.40 Young Finnegan, 2.15 Smashing, 2.50 Toushan, 3.25 Sempre Medici, 4.00 Newberry New, 4.35 Rue Hill, 5.05 She's Otto.

DOUBLE: Sternrubin and Captain Conan.