NICKY HENDERSON, who sent out Captain Cutter to win last season's Grade 1 Challow Hurdle, returns to his local Newbury course today with excellent prospects of achieving an encore in the Betfred-sponsored feature with Vyta Du Roc.

The five-year-old is a deeply progressive gelding. Successful at Hexham in the summer, Vyta Du Roc has come a long way since.

He has won Grade 2 races at Sandown and Cheltenham on his last two starts and although both those victories were narrowly gained, he showed a willing attitude on each occasion.

Unbeaten in four starts since joining Henderson from France, Vyta Du Roc faces some smart rivals, including Parlour Games and Blaklion this afternoon. But there is surely more to come from him and he can provide Henderson with another Challow triumph.

The Lambourn trainer can also win the Betfred 'Fun And Friendly' Juvenile Hurdle with Top Notch.

Winner of both his races over hurdles in France, the three-year-old is now set to make his British debut.

The experience he has gained so far will stand him in good stead in this event and although he has to concede weight all round, Top Notch is fancied to live up to his name under Barry Geraghty, also the rider of Vyta Du Roc.

Clean Sheet can also make an impression for Henderson and Geraghty in the Betfred Supports Jack Berry House Introductory Hurdle.

Winner of his only start in a point-to-point, Clean Sheet finished second at Sandown three weeks ago for Henderson and should be sharper now with that outing under his belt.

The Betfred 'Racing's Biggest Supporter' Novices' Handicap Chase is the target for nap selection Royal Regatta, who looks the type to develop into a high-class performer over fences.

Trained by Philip Hobbs, the lightly-raced six-year-old won by two lengths on his chasing bow on this course a month ago.

He has been raised 9lb for that success which sets him a stern test today, especially with Far West in the field, but Royal Regatta is an exciting horse and is selected to win again.

Alan King has a couple of good chances on the Newbury card, with Desert Joe and Ziga Boy.

Desert Joe, who runs in the Betfred Mobile Lotto Handicap Chase, unseated his rider on his fencing debut at Exeter before finishing second at Market Rasen, where he still was far from fluent at some of his fences. There is room for improvement in the jumping department, but he's a decent horse and a clean round of jumping here would put him firmly in the mix.

Ziga Boy was a Wincanton winner on his latest start. That was only his second outing of the campaign and he is fancied to follow-up in the Betfred Mandarin Handicap Chase off a 9lb higher mark.

On the Flat at Southwell, Pensax Lad may prove the solution to the tricky looking Daily Price Boosts At Unibet Handicap over five furlongs.

The Ron Harris-trained sprinter made a tardy start and also met trouble in running before being beaten less than two lengths by Scoreline at Wolverhampton last time out.

Provided he experiences a clean shot at the target this afternoon, he could well pop up on a course where he has won in the past.

Malton trainer Richard Fahey has a few chances on the Fibresand circuit.

Thermal Column could be interesting in the 32Red Casino Nursery Handicap.

The juvenile has shown a glimmer of promise on his three outings in maiden company and, off a mark of 64 in his first handicap offers him a more realistic chance to shine.

Fleur Des Mers, who runs for Fahey in the Ladbrokes Maiden Stakes, is making her British debut. She has had a handful of outings in France and finished second at Lyons Parilly on her latest outing.

It is difficult to know how to judge that form - there were only three runners - but this looks a weakfish race and she commands respect under David Nolan, also the rider of Thermal Column.

Recent course winner Enzaal (12.25), trained at Middleham by Phil Kirby, and Synonym (3.10), provided she does repeat her occasional slow-starting tendency, are two others to note.


Newbury today
12.30 Top Notch, 1.05 Desert Joe, 1.35 Ziga Boy, 2.10 Vyta Du Roc, 2.45 Royal Regatta (NAP), 3.15 Home Run, 3.50 Clean Sheet.

Southwell today
12.25 Enzaal, 1.00 Thermal Column, 1.30 Rockie Road, 2.05 Fleur Des Mers, 2.40 Air Of 
York, 3.10 Synonym, 3.40 Pensax Lad.

Today’s other meeting
Kelso. The meeting at Doncaster was abandoned.

Tomorrow’s meetings
Haydock, Lingfield and Taunton.