DANDY for us, Fire Up The Band scooted home in the Ascot opener on Saturday at decent odds of 3-1 favourite, just as we predicted last week.

David "Dandy" Nicholls sent this winner down from Sessay and son Adrian rode. The pair were only beaten half a length in the 5f sprint later, when Rectangle went close.

This is one to follow and, at Ripon on Wednesday, Onlytime Will Tell was another of his put in the notebook, together with David Chapman's fast finishing Quito.

Kevin Darley got off the mark this year on an all-weather ride Monday for David Barron and added his first on turf at Ripon.

Thursday saw Kevin Ryan win with Mirasol Princess, beating Karl Burke's Shank On Fourteen, but the latter came good in a sparkling run at Ripon. Kirstin Stubbs rode Jezadil, trained by her mother Linda, and snatched the race from the start, never headed.

Kate Walton had a first time Flat winner on Tuesday at Nottingham and doubled up with her own homebred Roman Outlaw at Newcastle over the jumps.

Tim FitzGerald had a first win since taking over from father Jimmy at Gosforth Park with Requestor, in the familiar colours of the Marquesa de Moratalla, well remembered with Trainglot and the rest in father FitzGerald's care.

Another welcome winner was Quarterstaff at Carlisle for trainer Chris Wilson and his wife Julie, in whose colours the winner ran, worn by Vinnie Keane. Chris, who is a farmer, worked for some years at Jimmy FitzGerald's and Julie used to work for Ann Duffield.

Well known in pointing circles, they decided one of them should train and it was husband Chris who took out the licence. This is a second success for them since starting 18 months back and they have some good homebreds for sale, some empty boxes and are keen to expand.

Both daughters, Hayley, 14, and Amy, 12, are keen riders and both attend Richmond School. Julie tips Royal Wanderer, the stable's runner at Kelso on Monday.

Last week, our own tips saw Richard Guest's Xaipete win at Carlisle, while stablemate Red Rampage, his biggest danger, was a non-runner.

Saturday, at Ascot, Fire Up The Band duly obliged, while Albuhera was a respectable fourth in the conditions race. Richard Fahey's Lady Bear was a decent third.

"Guesty" himself partnered a double at Market Rasen on Saturday.

Today at Aintree, Tim Easterby has Barton in the Thresher Handicap Chase, but our old favourite faces big opponents from hereabouts in Ballybrough Rasher (Howard Johnson) and Fatehalkhair (Brian Ellison), either of which could go close. Ellison's was last seen at Catterick on the Flat, keeping fit, but the nod goes to Johnson's runner.

Guest could win the Topham Chase later with Mr Bossman or even Nosam, with biggest danger Canadiane (Martin Pipe). One of our 15 to Follow, Sea Drifting, now moved to a new trainer, is entered in the Mildmay Novices' Chase and could prove useful.

Tomorrow in the Grand National, we would love to tip a local horse. Our heart says Ballinclay King (Ferdy Murphy), but our head says it's a big ask. And Richard Guest's entrants, former winner Red Marauder (who won't go if the ground is wrong), Red Striker and Red Ark, are bypassed by their jockey-trainer, who rides Henrietta Knight's Chives (around 10-1). We think this could be the one.

Alternatives could be one owned by a Yorkshireman - Sir Robert Ogden has three or four entered, including ante-post favourite Ad Hoc (Paul Nicholls) and Kingsmark.

A big whisper at Ripon this week was for Sue Smith's West Yorkshire runner Goguenard.


Thursday of last week. - Musselburgh: Mirasol Princess (trained by K Ryan, at Hambleton; owned by Mrs M Forsyth & Mrs E Jamieson), ridden by P Fessey.

Fri. - Carlisle: Xaipete (R Guest, Brancepeth; N B Mason), Mr L McGrath; Quarterstaff (C Wilson, Manfield; Mrs J Wilson (Durham)) V Keane (claiming 3lbs).

Sat. - Ascot: Fire Up The Band (D Nicholls, Sessay; Hb, P Crane, A Barker & S Short), A Nicholls.

Haydock NH: Conchita (A Swinbank, Melsonby; Hb, Mrs G E Brewis), N Hannity (3).

Market Rasen: Our Armageddon (R Guest; L J Garrett), R Guest; Nephite (R Guest).

Mon. - Wolverhampton AW: Royal Grand (D Barron, Maunby; Sporting Occasions Racing No 4), K Darley.

Tue. - Nottingham: Royal Castle (K Walton, Middleham; S Clough & D Bendall), D Fox (5); Oldenway (R Fahey, Butterwick; J J Staunton), P Hanagan.

Newcastle: Supreme Fortune (M Reveley, Lingdale; The Supreme Partnership), A Dempsey; Requestor (T FitzGerald, Norton; Marquesa de Moratalla), N Carter (5); The Nomad (M Easterby, Sheriff Hutton; S H J Brewer), Mr G Carenza (5); Roman Outlaw (K Walton; Hb, trainer), R McGrath.

Wed. - Ripon: Shank On Fourteen (K Burke, Wensley; L Westwood), D Williams; Jazadil (L Stubbs, Malton; O J Williams), K Stubbs (7).