Summerville Boy and Nube Negra put their unbeaten records over fences on the line in the Read Road To Cheltenham At racingtv.com Henry VIII Novices’ Chase at Sandown.
The Tom George-trained Summerville Boy won Sandown’s Tolworth Hurdle and the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival a couple of seasons ago, but floundered slightly after his novice tag was lost last term.
However, he made a triumphant start to his career over fences at Uttoxeter in early November, and George is looking forward to seeing him return to Grade One level on Saturday.
“He came out of his last race really well, we were very pleased with him,” said the Slad-based trainer.
“He should have come on well. He’s faced graded races before and he’s done it well.
“We’re looking forward to it and hoping for a good run from him – that would be perfect.”
Nube Negra was a decisive winner on both chasing starts so far – striking gold at Warwick and Fakenham.
A step up in class now awaits for a horse who was bred in Spain and campaigned on the Flat before joining Dan Skelton as a three-year-old.
“This has always been Plan A with him,” Skelton told Sky Sports Racing.
“Obviously he’s won two novice chases. Sandown is the perfect track for him, if anything I wish there were more jumps for him.
“I’d love to see him down the back straight over those fences as he is pure speed. Hopefully he can go a long way as a chaser.”
The gelding struggled to make an impact last season, filling the minor places in a series of graded and handicap hurdles.
“Last year was frustrating with him because he was one of those four-year-olds out of novice company and had no allowances to rely on,” said Skelton.
“He was in the big boys’ league and not ready to cut it.”
The market is headed by Nigel Twiston-Davies’ Torpillo, who began his season with a victory over hurdles before winning on his chasing debut at Warwick on November 20.
Paul Nicholls is represented by Grand Sancy, who tackles fences for the first time after finishing second to Fusil Raffles in the Elite Hurdle at Wincanton last month.
Skelton has a second hope in the form of Beakstown, with Ruth Jefferson’s Return Ticket and Evan Williams’ Esprit Du Large completing the line-up.