Shoot To Kill - 15:55 Newcastle
Smart Stat: £22.47 - George Scott's profit to a £1 level stake with horses running after a break
Shoot To Kill showed fair form without winning in five outings as a two-year-old, and, though well beaten on his only two attempts in handicaps, he has certainly shown enough to suggest that a BHA mark of 74 won't prove beyond him when everything falls right. Indeed, the form of his second in a minor event at Chelmsford in September puts him right in the mix here on Timeform's weight-adjusted ratings, and, with further improvement not ruled out after a gelding operation during the winter, this looks a good opportunity for him to open his account for the George Scott yard that is well capable of readying one after a break.
Fox Hill - 16:30 Newcastle
Smart Stat: £23.00 - Eric Alston's profit to a £1 level stake with horses running after a break
Fox Hill developed into a model of consistency for the Eric Alston yard last season, finishing out of the first three only once in her last six outings. That streak included a pair of wins, and she shaped as if still on a fair mark when we last saw her finishing third at Hamilton in September, never nearer than at the finish after a sluggish start. Still beaten less than three lengths at the line, the forecast strong pace here is expected to see her once again coming home stronger than most, so she could be worth chancing to pick up where she left off last season at rewarding odds.
Valyrian Steel - 18:15 Newcastle
Smart Stat: 22% - Roger Varian's strike rate at Newcastle since the start of the 2016 season
Those with previous experience in the finale set only a fairly useful standard, so it could be siding with one of the several interesting newcomers, with none making more appeal than Valyrian Steel. A €600,000 purchase as a yearling, she must have plenty about her physically, on top of a useful pedigree, by Frankel and out of a two-year-old winner who is herself a half-sister to Kick On and Nordic Lights (both smart performers). Roger Varian, who has an excellent strike rate at Newcastle in recent seasons, is no stranger to first-time-out winners, either, so everything looks set fair for a big run in what is likely to prove an informative heat.