Paul Nicholls is hopeful Black Corton can extend his excellent record in the Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury on Saturday week.
The Ditcheat maestro won successive renewals of the race as a jockey aboard Broadheath (1986) and Playschool and has saddled three winners as trainer, with Strong Flow scoring in 2003 and the mighty Denman winning twice in 2007 and 2009.
His big hope for this year’s event is the admirable Black Corton, who won eight times as a novice over fences last season finished second to Definitly Red in the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby on his seasonal reappearance.
Nicholls said: “He’s in good shape and I think he was a bit unlucky in the Charlie Hall. He ran very well that day, it was a great prep race and he’s definitely in with a chance at a big price.
“He’s come on for that run and I’m keen to bring him here. This track suits Black Corton, as he showed last season.
“He’s in really good shape and has as good a chance as any.”
Nicky Henderson could fire a twin assault, with Beware The Bear and Terrefort both in the mix.
Terrefort was ante-post favourite before disappointing behind fellow Newbury contenders Elegant Escape and Thomas Patrick at Sandown recently.
Speaking after working some of his stable stars during the Ladbrokes Winter Carnival gallops morning at Newbury on Tuesday, Henderson said: “Beware The Bear won first time back last season and is good fresh.
“I’m keen to come here for the Ladbrokes Trophy, but if the ground isn’t suitable he has the alternative of the Rehearsal Chase at Newcastle.
“We found that Terrefort had pulled some muscles at Sandown and I’ll do something with him this week.
“I hope we can get him here.”
Having seen Be My Royal disqualified in 2002, Willie Mullins belatedly won the Ladbrokes Trophy for the first time with Total Recall 12 months ago.
He could be back to defend his crown, but Ireland’s champion trainer has nominated last week’s Clonmel Oil Chase victor as Kemboy as his chief hope this time around.
Mullins said: “Kemboy looks the main one for me. We’ve picked up a 4lb penalty for winning in Clonmel, but there’s every reason to go to Newbury as he’s grand and in great form at home.
“He was entitled to win the other day, but I didn’t think he was quite fit enough and I admit he surprised me.
“There are three other possibles in Total Recall, Rathvinden and Pairofbrowneyes. The ground will be too quick for the others.”
Discussing ground conditions and assessing the forecast, Newbury’s clerk of the course Richard Osgood said: “This season, I’ve had to use more water than in the last four years put together as it’s been particularly dry.
“I walked it this morning and would call the ground good, good to soft in places.
“Between now and next week the forecast is for showers, but the weather is actually quite unpredictable.
“We’ve got a frost coming on Thursday and I’m mindful that any further watering can only be done in certain areas.”