Champ and Black Op will lock horns for the Ladbrokes ‘Where The Nation Plays’ Novices’ Chase at Newbury on Friday.
The former, trained by Nicky Henderson, made a winning debut over fences on this course last month, while Black Op got off the mark over the bigger obstacles at Stratford four weeks ago.
Black Op had two runs over fences last winter, being placed behind Lostintranslation and Defi Du Seuil, before finishing off the campaign over hurdles.
Connections felt they were not able to get enough schooling into Black Op, but the subsequent exploits of those two showed he still ran to a high level of form.
Trainer Tom George reports things have gone much smoother so far this season.
“He is in good form and everything has gone right since Stratford. Last season over fences we couldn’t get all the schooling done with him. We didn’t have a good run at it at all,” said the Slad handler ahead of the Grade Two affair.
“As it transpired the races that he did run in he was beaten by good horses, as he was beaten a few lengths by Defi Du Seuil at Exeter and five or six lengths by Lostintranslation at Cheltenham when he wasn’t jumping very well.
“He worked really nicely on Monday and has been schooling very well. We’ve just got to keep it the same and if we do there is a lot to look forward to.”
George added: “Lots of people have put plenty of work in to him. Johnny Burke has been on him, he has been to Henrietta Knight’s and he has schooled a lot at home.
“Touch wood he seems to have got the hang of it at the moment and hopefully he continues that way.”
Deyrann De Carjac has won both his starts over fences, at Cartmel in the spring and Huntingdon four weeks ago.
His trainer Alan King feels the six-year-old will not be out of place in this better company.
“Deyrann De Carjac was very impressive when winning an above-average novice chase at Huntingdon earlier this month,” the Barbury Castle trainer told www.alankingracing.co.uk.
“He jumped accurately and the runner-up has since won at Ascot, so that form looks solid.
“This is another step up in class, but he is a horse I like a lot and he schooled well on Monday. Fences seem to have made a man of him, but I hope we don’t get any more rain.”
Jeremy Scott’s Dashel Drasher, who was runner-up to Champ at Newbury, the Colin Tizzard-trained Vision Des Flos and Paul Nicholls’ Mont Des Avaloirs make up the six-strong field.
He’s running off his highest mark, but I think he’ll go well
Amy Murphy feels Kalashnikov has improved for his reappearance at Aintree and is expecting a bold show in the Get Your Ladbrokes £1 Free Bet Today Handicap Chase.
Winner of the Grade One Manifesto Novices’ Chase at Aintree in April, the six-year-old was second to Forest Bihan on his return there five weeks ago.
“He’s in good form. I’m pleased with him at home and looking forward to running him. He’s running off his highest mark, but I think he’ll go well,” said Murphy.
“He’ll have come on for his run at Aintree.”
Azzerti has gone up 4lb for his victory over this course and distance three weeks ago – but King does not consider that to be harsh.
“I was very encouraged by his recent win over the course and distance, and he seems to have grown up since last season,” he said.
“He was better behaved in the preliminaries than previously and jumped super, too.
“I thought the second was coming to head him up the run-in, but it was good to see him dig in and shrug off the challenge, sticking his head out and finding extra.
“I hope this stronger race does not come too soon and he has only gone up 4lb, so fingers crossed he can again be competitive.”
The Henderson-trained O O Seven shares top-weight of 11st 12lb with Kalashnikov in a competitive 12-runner heat.