ANOTHER CLUB ROYAL (2.30) looks in a class of his own for Catterick's Alan Thompson 75th Birthday Novices' Handicap Chase.

Ginger McCain's seven-year-old has won two of his last three starts, most recently at Musselburgh where he bravely fought off the attentions of his two closest pursuers to collect in a bobbing three-way photo.

The Official Handicapper might seem to have been a tad harsh in upping Another Club Royal 9lbs for that short-head victory, but in a race which won't take much winning, it might pay to stick with Steven Craine's in-form mount.

Futoo (2.00) fits the bill nicely as far as the potential first-past-the-post in the opening Racing Post-sponsored Selling Hurdle is concerned.

Middleham trainer, George Moore, drops his gelding down to the lowest possible grade in the two mile contest, which by anyone's standards is a pretty desperate affair.

It's hard to enthuse about many of the runners, but at least Futoo is lightly raced over hurdles and therefore open to more improvement than the majority of his largely jaded rivals.

The Cheltenham Paper Novices' Hurdle has to be one of the hottest events of its type seen at the A1 venue for many a moon.

Zeitgeist, once a useful middle-distance performer on the Flat for Newmarket handler, Luca Cumani, made a winning start for his new connections, Graham and Andrea Wylie, in January.

In opposition Michael Hammond's Industrial Star, a previous course and distance scorer, plus Tom Tate's The Duke's Speech, are also highly progressive individuals with scope to do even better.

Making a choice between the trio is less than easy, however, the fact Howard Johnson has opted to fit Zeitgeist with a visor to help sharpen up his act, marginally swings the vote in the five-year-olds' favour.

The Horses Mouth Handicap Hurdle is much more about quantity than quality, a scenario that could play into the hands of top-weight, Merryvale Man (3.30).

The handicapper clearly believes Merryvale Man is the best horse in the race, a theory quite likely to be confirmed if he reproduces his doughty third placing at Newcastle in February.

It's no use trying to restrain Merryvale Man, who doesn't mind doing the donkey work while others lie in wait. Such tactics are not suitable at some tracks, but there again Catterick has always course where front runners traditionally thrive.

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