Nicky Henderson believes OK Corral can provide him with a fourth victory in the Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury on Saturday.
The Seven Barrows handler has previously struck gold with Trabolgan (2005), Bobs Worth (2012) and Triolo D’Alene (2013) and this year fires a four-pronged assault, with OK Corral joined by stable companions On The Blind Side, Beware The Bear and Brave Eagle.
OK Corral is very much the trainer’s chief contender, having won twice over fences a novice over fences last season, before pulling up on is most recent appearance in the National Hunt Chase at the Cheltenham Festival in March.
Henderson believes he has viable excuses for that disappointing effort and is optimistic ahead of his reappearance – buoyed by a pleasing racecourse gallop at Newbury last week, in which he was ridden by former multiple champion jockey Sir Anthony McCoy.
“Everything has been very good with OK Corral, and he looks fantastic,” said Henderson.
“This is a race we have lined the horse up for. We’ve used it for second-season novices before, like Bobs Worth and Trabolgan, and we are on the same road here.
“It was a day out for him here the other week. AP rode him and enjoyed himself. I’m not sure who had the bigger puff afterwards – I don’t think it was the horse!
“Trip-wise, this is better for him than the National Hunt Chase at Cheltenham (last season) – but there were other issues for that display, with flu vaccinations. He has been very good, heading into this.”
Colin Tizzard, who has saddled two of the last three winners in Native River (2016) and Sizing Tennessee (2018), is represented by top-weight Elegant Escape, Robinsfirth, Mister Malarkey and recent Cheltenham scorer West Approach.
De Rasher Counter is a leading contender for Emma Lavelle, having blown away any cobwebs with a comeback run over hurdles at Uttoxeter.
Lavelle said: “He has come on stones for his run at Uttoxeter – he’s in great order. I don’t think I could have him in any better form going into the race, and he’s not ground dependent.
“We now need to find out if he is good enough to win off his current mark and if things go his way during the race. Those are two big ‘ifs’, but we’ll only find out the answers on the day.”