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At Fishers Cross set to extend winning run at Newbury

There is a top quality supporting card at Newbury on Hennessy Gold Cup day with the Grade 2 Long Distance Hurdle certain to provide some pointers to the Cheltenham festival in March. The odds-on favourite is Albert Bartlett Hurdle winner At Fishers Cross who will be bidding to win his seventh consecutive start.

At the beginning of last season, the gelding was racing off a mark of just 122 but he is now rated 30lbs higher. Last year’s runner-up Reve De Sivola is officially rated higher and recently battled to a Grade 1 success in France.

Tactics will be interesting in this small field with World Hurdle runner-up Celestial Halo expected to set the pace. At Fishers Cross demonstrated that he has a fine finishing kick when winning at Aintree and that could be the decisive factor.

All 21 runners have stood their ground for the Hennessy and the bookmakers are still unable to establish a clear market leader. Confidence in the Alan King-trained Invictus seems to have evaporated whilst Nicky Henderson’s Hadrian’s Approach is also on the drift.

With David Pipe’s stable in such fine form, it would be no surprise to see Our Father start favourite. The grey always runs his best races when fresh and it would be an emotional victory for all concerned in the colours of the late David Johnson.

Whatever the fate of Invictus, Alan King could be on the mark with Valdez in the 12.50. He was a comfortable winner at Exeter last time and may have most to fear from the French import Black River.

Willie Mullins is aiming to plunder more top races this side of the water this season and can get favourite backers off to a good start with Vicky De L’Oasis in the opener. Jonjo O’Neill’s Don’t Be Late could be the answer to a very competitive handicap hurdle at 1.50 after winning well at Worcester.

Selections: 12.20 Vicky De L’Oasis, 12.50 Valdez, 1.20 No Secrets, 1.50 Don’t Be Late, 2.25 At Fishers Cross (NAP), 3.00 Our Father (nb), 3.35 Anay Turge