Arkle Trophy favourite Lalor is the star name among 10 entries for the Napoleons Casino & Restaurant Owlerton Sheffield Lightning Novices’ Chase at Doncaster on Saturday.
Kayley Woollacott’s stable star made a sparkling debut over fences at Cheltenham in November, but odds-on backers had their fingers burnt when he could finish only third behind Dynamite Dollars in the Henry VIII Novices’ Chase at Sandown on his next start.
Despite that reverse, he is a general 5-1 favourite for the Arkle at the Cheltenham Festival in March and those odds will likely shorten further if he can get back on the winning trail on Town Moor.
Lalor could renew rivalry with his Sandown conqueror Dynamite Dollars, trained by Paul Nicholls.
Other hopefuls for the Grade Two contest include Alan King’s Ballywood, the Mick Channon-trained Glen Forsa and Knocknanuss from Gary Moore’s yard.
The only Irish-trained contender is Denis Hogan’s mare Moyhenna, who has finished second on each of her two starts over fences to date behind two high-class Willie Mullins inmates in Camelia De Cotte and Pravalaguna.
Hogan, who also entered the hat-trick-seeking Moskovite in the olbg.com Yorkshire Rose Mares’ Hurdle, said: “They are just speculative entries at this stage. I saw the races were reopened so we’ve put them in and we’ll have a look.
“If it looked like there might be a bit of cut in the ground and they had a chance of getting some black type, we could bring them across.
“I’m over there for the sales on Wednesday so I’ll have a look at the ground and go from there.”
Moskovite is one of 10 entries for the Mares’ Hurdle.
Others in contention include Tom Lacey’s course and distance winner Via Delle Volte, Peter Atkinson’s Irish Roe and Phil Kirby’s star mare Lady Buttons, although the latter is more likely to remain over fences in a Listed chase at Huntingdon on Friday.
Kirby said: “The plan is to go to Huntingdon at this stage. I put her in at Doncaster as there were only five in on Monday and the top-rated wasn’t very high.”
Fergal O’Brien will assess ground conditions before deciding which of Coolanly and Aye Aye Charlie runs in the Albert Bartlett River Don Novices’ Hurdle.
Coolanly won a Grade Two at Cheltenham in November before finishing fifth in the Challow Hurdle behind Champ.
Aye Aye Charlie also has the option of taking on more established hurdlers in the Cleeve at Cheltenham, having been a beaten favourite in an Albert Bartlett trial last time out.
O’Brien said: “It is really ground dependent for Coolanly, as I wouldn’t want to run him on good to firm ground. I’ve got another race in mind for him either Wetherby or Haydock in a couple of weeks’ time, where he only has a 6lb penalty for his Grade Two win.
“Aye Aye Charlie is in the Cleeve as well. Paddy (Brennan) was not so keen on the Cleeve for Aye Aye Charlie, but I thought we would give him a bash in it as it is only down the road.”