Nicky Henderson has described his Unibet Tolworth Novices’ Hurdle contender Rathhill as a horse with “gears” as he looks to add to his impressive record in the race.
The Seven Barrows handler has won the Sandown Grade One five times previously, enjoying a golden spell of four successes between 2011 and 2015.
Rathhill made his racecourse debut just over a fortnight ago – having finished second in an Irish point-to-point – and he was a stylish winner at Newbury.
Henderson had a handful of exciting prospects to choose from at the confirmation stage, so it may speak volumes he relies solely on the JP McManus-owned six-year-old.
“He is a very burly horse, has plenty of gears – and two miles will do him for now,” said Henderson.
“We decided to run him a week earlier at Newbury, because we wanted to give Rathhill extra time before the Tolworth.”
Colin Tizzard’s Elixir De Nutz has far more experience and will be having his sixth run over hurdles on Saturday.
He failed to cut much ice in two starts for Philip Hobbs last season, but the switch to Tizzard has seen him progress in leaps and bounds – finishing second on his debut for the Dorset handler at Cheltenham in October, before registering successive wins at Prestbury Park.
“Two miles is his trip, and you can go as fast as you want with him over that trip. We’ve made the running over two miles so far, and it is working quite well at the moment,” said Tizzard.
“This is a step up on what he has done, but he has done nothing wrong and he is a lovely horse.
“His form has also been franked, and he deserves a crack at a Grade One.”
Idee De Garde was second on his hurdling debut at Newcastle for Dan Skelton, having won a bumper for previous trainer Nicky Richards.
That form received a boost when the winner, Henderson’s Champagne Platinum, went in again at Newbury last week under a penalty.
“We don’t want to lose our maiden tag cheaply at this time of year, so we’ll put him in deep waters and run him in the Tolworth,” said jockey Harry Skelton on Sky Sports Racing.
“If he wins then it’s not a problem. He’s a nice horse with a future.”
Paul Nicholls fires a twin assault, with jockey Harry Cobden seemingly preferring Southfield Stone to Grand Sancy, the mount of Sam Twiston-Davies.
Fergal O’Brien’s outsider Mercy Mercy Me completes the six-strong field.