CLASSIC winning trainer Tim Easterby doesn't have too many National Hunt horses these days, but the ones he does run are normally worth following, a remark that applies to Witch's Brew (12.45) in the opener at Newcastle today.

Witch's Brew didn't appear to be any great shakes over timber when finishing out with the washing on her debut at Sedgefield in November, however she left that woeful effort behind at Wetherby last month when finishing third to the potentially smart Always Rainbows.

She was taking on both full horses and geldings at Wetherby, whereas this afternoon she only has her own sex to contend with. It's a major drop in class for Witch's Brew, fancied to land the Bet 365 Mares' Only Maiden Hurdle at the main expense of Kombinacja.

Konbinacja is a former winner of the Polish Derby, Oaks, and St Leger, form that is almost certain to send her off at a very short price. On the downside she's never jumped a hurdle in public before, plus has an unpromising 472-day absence to overcome.

The Parklands Golf Course Novices' Chase looks a straight match between the Nicky Richards-trained Telemoss and George Moore's Sir Storm.

Preference is marginally for Sir Storm, proven at two miles, in contrast to Telemoss, who although unbeaten in two starts over fences, ideally requires a much longer trip to show his best.

In the first at Huntingdon, a two mile Novices' Hurdle, all eyes will be on Double Honour (1.00), now trained in the west country by Philip Hobbs.

Double Honour was a really smart stayer when in the hands of Mark Johnston, fully capable of holding his own in Group company. Provided Double Honour takes to jumping, he should have the class to mow his rivals down, especially with the assistance of Richard Johnson in the saddle.

Malton-based handler Richard Fahey, who has lodged an appeal against Altay's outrageously unfair disqualification at Lingfield last week, takes the seven-year-old back to the course for the Showcase Handicap at 2.40. Altay is effectively a winner without a penalty and is likely to make amends in the £12,000 mile-and-a-half event.

* Trainer Ferdy Murphy will decide after his star chaser Truckers Tavern works under stable jockey Davy Russell today whether to let the horse take his chance in the Bet Direct Peter Marsh Chase at Haydock on Saturday.

The Middleham handler said his other entry in the race Historg is less likely to run, and is being aimed at the Singer & Friedlander National Trial over three and a half miles at Uttoxeter on February 1 en route to a crack at the Racing Post Chase at Kempton later that month.

''At the moment we're thinking of running Truckers Tavern in the Peter Marsh,'' said Murphy. ''Davy's going to ride him in the morning and we'll see from there.''

The trainer is anxious to get the eight-year-old - last seen taking a first-fence fall at Ascot before Christmas - on to the racecourse for the build-up to Cheltenham, though he is cautious at this stage about a possible Gold Cup challenge.

''We'll take one race at a time and the Gold Cup might be a year too soon with him,'' he said. ''He's got a very understanding owner, so I'm lucky enough in that sense and there's no pressure on. But basically we're just desperate to get experience into him.''

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