Michael Dods hopes Dakota Gold can go one better than last year in Ripon’s William Hill Great St Wilfrid Handicap.
The five-year-old was the first home on the far side 12 months ago, but second overall – two and three-quarter lengths behind Gunmetal.
Dakota Gold has been drawn on the stands side in stall 15 this time, and returns to the North Yorkshire venue on Saturday after a victory at York three weeks ago.
Dods has also given the Equiano gelding an entry in the Sky Bet And Symphony Group Handicap that opens the Ebor Festival on Wednesday, but the Ripon feature is too good to miss.
“He did well at York, and obviously we’ve got York next week, but we thought we’d go here first and then decide about York later,” said the County Durham trainer.
“He does it the hard way, because he’s got to be ridden handy, but we’re pleased with him. He’s in good form with himself.
“It’s a good race, and the draw always comes into it – which side you need to be on. We’ll have to make the best of it.”
Gunmetal has to defy top-weight this time and will race from stall three as he bids to bounce back from a disappointing run in the Stewards’ Cup at Goodwood.
His trainer David Barron is hoping the rain stays away for the six-year-old.
“He seems in good form. The one thing that would scupper us slightly is we wouldn’t want any more rain,” said Barron.
“It can be hit and miss, but in an ideal world we wouldn’t want any for him.
“He goes on the track at Ripon. He’s been to Goodwood twice and he doesn’t go on that track.
“The faster the ground the better it would be for him.”
Barron also saddles bottom-weight Venturous, who is next door to his stablemate in stall two and showed his well-being when second to Poyle Vinnie in the consolation race for the Stewards’ Cup.
“He ran very well last time. He’s a hold-up horse, so we need a few things to go right for him, but he seems in good form,” said the Thirsk handler.
“At least with the draw (two and three) we know where we’re going.”
Poyle Vinnie takes his chance after a busy and lucrative Goodwood, having also finished second earlier in the week before his victory.
Trainer Ruth Carr reports the in-form nine-year-old to be thriving on his racing.
She said: “He’s been good – he carries a few pounds more for winning at Goodwood.
“It will be harder for him, but he’s come out of the race well.
“He’s tough and consistent and won’t mind a bit of juice in the ground, so I hope he’ll run well.
“He’s a hardened warrior.”
Carr has a second string to her bow in Reputation, who has good course form.
“He’s a course-and-distance winner for us at the beginning of the year,” she added.
“He’s higher (in the weights) than what he was. But apart from last time, where he blew the start at Ascot, he’s been very consistent off this mark – and I hope he can run well if he gets away on terms.”
Belated Breath is a rare runner at the garden racecourse for Hughie Morrison.
The East Ilsley trainer is hoping for the best with the four-year-old filly, who has been in good form since returning from a seven-month break in May.
She arguably put up a career best when narrowly beaten in third place after making the running in a valuable handicap at Windsor.
“I haven’t had a runner at Ripon for years, so I haven’t a clue what the draw (16) is like,” said Morrison.
“She’s kept improving this year. Her form from Windsor looks very good. She might lack an extra gear to win a big race like this, but she warrants her chance.”