Chris Gordon’s Commanche Red is looking to back up the big impression he made at Kempton over Christmas when he returns to the track for the Betway Pendil Novices’ Chase.
The seven-year-old beat subsequent Cheltenham winner Simply The Betts last time out and the handicapper put him up to a mark of 150, suggesting he is the one to beat in the Grade Two feature on Saturday.
“I’m really looking forward to running him again,” said Gordon.
“His last race couldn’t have worked out any better, but I do think Harry Whittington’s horse (Simply The Betts) wasn’t quite suited to Kempton, he looked much happier at Cheltenham.
“But then our other horse who was third, On The Slopes, has won since, too, to frank the form.”
Paul Nicholls runs two in Mister Tommytucker, who was a faller in the Kauto Star Novices’ Chase at Christmas, and Southfield Stone.
Nicholls said: “Mister Tommytucker was unfortunate the last day so he’s on a bit of a retrieval mission having had that fall. Hopefully he’ll go well.
“Southfield Stone seemed to be suited by two and a half miles last time. He won at this meeting last year in the Dovecote, so the track suits and hopefully he’ll go tidy.”
Erik Le Rouge and Who Dares Wins add further strength in depth.
In the Sky Bet Dovecote Novices’ Hurdle, Nicky Henderson’s Buzz aims to remain unbeaten having won his first two over obstacles since switching from the Flat.
“I would have thought Buzz might be more of an Aintree horse, as I thought Kempton then Aintree would suit,” said Henderson.
“He has been very natural (since going jumping). He went to Henrietta Knight’s and it is a brilliant way to teach those Flat horses to jump. He has loved it and is very good over hurdles.”
Kid Commando represents Anthony Honeyball, who expects to be guided on his Cheltenham target.
Honeyball said: “It is a valuable Grade Two and I think he is ready to have a go at that and see where we stand.
“He is still in the Supreme and Ballymore. We will learn on Saturday if he is good enough for one of those races and what trip to go for.”
Gordon runs Highway One O Two, who could not have been more impressive in his last two races.
“He’s won very easily twice and the times have been good. Last time Leighton (Aspell) couldn’t pull him up,” said Gordon.
“It looks quite tough and personally I’d like to have found another novice for him and taken weight off with a conditional, but he’s not an easy ride.
“So we’ll step him up and run him in a better race and this looks lovely, it will be nice for him to run at Kempton.
“Some of them have loads more experience than him, having run on the Flat like Buzz, but our guy deserves to take his chance on the back of what he’s done, although it’s difficult to evaluate what he’s beaten.”
Nicholls runs an ex-Flat horse in Bathsheba Bay, and said: “He was rated 87 on the Flat which is high enough and he’s won his last two.
“Obviously it was just a handicap last time, but I can guarantee he won’t finish last.”
In the Weatherbys Cheltenham Festival Betting Guide Adonis Juvenile Hurdle, which has proved a good guide to the Triumph Hurdle down the years, Nicholls unleashes Solo – already as low as 10-1 for the Cheltenham race.
“His rating (146) is based on just two runs in France, it looks a bit high to me,” said Nicholls.
“But, in saying that, he’s a lovely horse and I’m looking forward to running him.”
The filly Fujimoto Flyer for Emmet Mullins looks his biggest danger.
In the rearranged Betway Kingwell Hurdle, Dan Skelton’s Ch’tibello gives weight away all around, including to Nicholls’ Diego Du Charmil who has not run over timber since the Cheltenham Festival three years ago.
“There’s not a lot he can run in over fences to be honest,” said Nicholls.
“He always goes well fresh, he’s got plenty of speed and he’s got a high enough rating to run in this. I could see him running really well.”