Paul Nicholls fires a three-pronged assault in a bid to secure a ninth victory in the William Hill Supporting Greatwood Gold Cup at Newbury.
The Ditcheat maestro has had his string in sensational form in the last couple of weeks – highlighted by his remarkable across-the-card eight-timer two Saturdays ago.
With the Cheltenham Festival fast approaching, Nicholls will be keen to keep the big-race victories coming and holds a strong hand in a Grade Three contest he has won eight times in just 15 years.
The stable’s main hope appears to be Dolos – who opened his account for the campaign with a clear-cut win at Sandown.
He is joined by course and distance winner Warrior’s Tale – a winner over the Grand National fences at Aintree on his penultimate start in the Grand Sefton but disappointingly pulled up in the Sky Bet Chase at Doncaster last time out – and San Benedeto.
Assistant trainer Harry Derham said: “Dolos was very good last time and jumped very well, but he is going back up in trip. We are limited where we can go with him. It helps having Lorcan (Williams) on board as it takes that bit of weight of him.
“Warrior’s Tale loves Newbury. We took bloods after last time and we couldn’t find anything wrong with. He seems in good form, but he can throw in an odd race like that so we can half forgive him that.
“San Benedeto has been in the grip of the handicapper. Spring is his time of year, but I would not be surprised if he was a bit high in the weights still.”
Kerry Lee saddles her ultra-consistent mare Happy Diva.
Her third-placed finish behind Cyrname at Ascot in January looks even better with hindsight and she was not winning out of turn when narrowly denying Irish raider Magic Of Light in a Listed event at Huntingdon recently.
Lee said: “There are no mares’ chases for her over two-and-a-half (miles), so we’ve got to take on the geldings.
“She’s in good form and we know she likes Newbury. I’m not saying this is an easier option than the race at Cheltenham (Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate), but it looked sensible to let her run.”
Charlie Longsdon’s Nightfly was fourth behind Happy Diva at Huntingdon and renews rivalry.
“I am looking forward to her running. It’s been her target the whole time,” said Longsdon.
“She ran way better than her rating in the Listed race at Huntingdon. On the day I thought she was third-best but paid for trying to go with the front two.”
The Fergal O’Brien-trained Master Dee won a valuable prize at Kempton little over a year ago and makes his first competitive appearance since pulling up at Market Rasen in October.
“Master Dee is so consistent and had a valid excuse last time with an overreach,” said O’Brien.
“He’s had a breathing operation since his last run as well and is as fit as we can get him at home.
“We’re hoping he’s the perfect type for the Grand National, so we’re looking for a positive run from him.”
Amy Murphy is looking forward to seeing Mercian Prince step up in class after a making every yard of the running on the way to a 17-length verdict at Kempton in January.
She said: “Mercian Prince had a huge hike (10lb) after Kempton and it makes sense to let him take his chance in a better grade of race.
“He is in great form and his main asset is his jumping, so if he can get on the front end and get into a rhythm like he did at Kempton then he absolutely deserves to go down this road.”