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Newbury preview: Minella take be a Present for punters (16:20)

The feature contest on Friday’s card at Newbury is a highly-competitive handicap hurdle (16:20) with a dozen runners included.

Royal Guardsman was a highly regarded bumper horse, and he finally put it all together when winning a handicap hurdle over course and distance beating Kiama Bay by two and a quarter lengths. He went up six pounds for that success, which leaves him on a career high mark of 130, and he will need to improve again here but this looks a better race than last time.

Baby King, the third horse from that occasion, re-opposes and meets Royal Guardsman on better terms, having given him a pound last time and he gets four here. There is potential improvement here on what is his fifth career start.

Parsnip Pete, Baby King’s stable-mate, returns off a break, and is probably here for a preparation towards retaining his crown in the Red Rum at Aintree in a couple of weeks’ time. Another that will probably need this outing is Red Merlin, who was last seen when sixth to Hawk High at the Merseyside venue, and is another potential for the Grand National meeting.

Minella Present looks interesting here, wearing a hood for the first time, having showed plenty of promise in novice events earlier in the season. He was fifth behind Parlour Games at Cheltenham before disappointing on testing ground behind Unique De Cotte.

Tony McCoy has been booked to ride by Neil Mulholland, who is currently in excellent form having had his first Festival winner last week, and the fact Minella Present was withdrawn from last week’s County Hurdle suggests they have been looking for better ground.

Gassin Golf has been an expensive horse to follow with him still looking for his first success over hurdles, even though he rarely runs a bad race. His effort in the Imperial Cup deserves marking up as he was one that made ground from the back of the field, but you get the impression he will still bump into one.

Willem was disappointing on his UK debut at Ascot behind Baradari, and it is probably best to watch the market to gauge his chances.