Owner Dai Walters is hoping Angels Breath can cement his Cheltenham Festival claims in the Sky Bet Dovecote Novices’ Hurdle at Kempton on Saturday.
Angels Breath had been the favourite for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, but he was usurped by fellow Walters-owned Al Dancer after he won the Betfair Hurdle last weekend.
With both Nigel Twiston-Davies, trainer of Al Dancer, and Angels Breath’s handler Nicky Henderson keen to run in the Cheltenham Festival opener, Walters has an embarrassment of riches.
“I just hope he can repeat what he did last time,” said Walters.
“I know he only jumped four hurdles because of the sun at Ascot, but I can’t see his jumping being a problem.
“If all goes well, I’ve obviously then got the two of them for the Supreme because if he wins the Dovecote with a penalty, then he’ll be entitled to go for it.
“They are two special horses and I might know which is the better of the two in 24 hours, but at the minute I think they’ll both run.”
Asked if he favoured one over the other at this stage, Walters said: “Nigel will tell you he’s got nothing that can work with Al Dancer, but then Nicky has always liked Angels Breath and started him off in a Grade Two, which he doesn’t normally do, so we’ll just have to see.”
Alan King’s Scarlet Dragon finished second in the race on his hurdling debut 12 months ago and is back again after breaking his duck at Huntingdon recently following several good runs on the Flat.
”I was really pleased with Scarlet Dragon at Huntingdon as, though pulling very hard, he finished his race off strongly, and getting his head in front will have done wonders for his confidence,” King told www.alankingracing.co.uk.
“He has a lot of ability and was runner-up here 12 months ago when making his jumping debut, and this looks the perfect race to give him more of the necessary experience which he will need if he is going to head off to Cheltenham for the Supreme.”
Tokay Dokey is unbeaten in three for Dan Skelton, but this represents a step up in class.
Assistant trainer Tom Messenger said: “He is defending his unbeaten record and is a horse we have thought a lot of.
“This is really a step into the deep end, but he deserves to take his chance. Nicky Henderson’s horse has a massive reputation and he looks like he will be hard to beat, but I think the track and ground will suit him.
“Being a novice, when you win your two you either have to go in a handicap or step up in grade and we just wanted to give him a little bit of time to fill into himself and not rush too much.
“We will look at this towards building towards Cheltenham or Aintree. This will tell us where we go next.”
The 888Sport Pendil Novices’ Chase has only attracted four runners with Harry Fry’s Bags Groove on a retrieval mission having disappointed in the Kauto Star Novices’ Chase behind La Bague Au Roi.
“On Boxing Day we got it a bit wrong,” Fry told his Betway blog.
“The race came too soon after his race at Huntingdon, so we’ve given him a nice break and we’re hoping he can bounce right back to form before stepping it up a gear for a bigger target in the spring.
“This will act as a stepping stone to Aintree, where he could go up in trip and contest the Grade One Mildmay Novices’ Chase over three miles.”
The King-trained Good Man Pat, Paul Nicholls’ Secret Investor and Charlie Longsdon’s mare Castafiore complete the select field of four.
The 888Sport Take ‘Em On Adonis Juvenile Hurdle has attracted a competitive field of 13.
Nicholls runs Ecco, Red Force One and Deadline Diva while King sends Praeceps and Giving Glances.
“We are looking at both for the Fred Winter. Praeceps needs this third run to qualify, and the way he won at Market Rasen last time showed that he had learned plenty from his debut at Newbury,” said King.
“It was good to see Giving Glances bounce back from a poor effort at Aintree to win a Listed race at Doncaster last time, but she was off the bridle a long way from home and had to battle hard.
“It was a black type performance for a filly, so I should have been delighted, but I think she is better than that and am keen to run her here en route to Cheltenham.”
Skelton runs Protektorat and Messenger said: “We think a lot of him, but he really is a horse for the future. Hopefully he will run a good race, but at this stage of his career it is all about getting experience into him.
“His unseating at Cheltenham probably had a bearing on his season because I think he would have won that day and he would have gone for the Triumph. That put us on the back foot for a little bit.”