Ben Pauling is confident Cheltenham Festival hero Le Breuil can make his presence felt off top weight in the McCoy Contractors Civil Engineering Classic Chase at Warwick.
The eight-year-old rounded off a fine novice campaign over fences last season with a thrilling victory in the National Hunt Chase at Prestbury Park in March.
He was pulled up on his hurdles reappearance at Wetherby, but shaped with more encouragement when seventh over Aintree’s Grand National fences in last month’s Becher Chase.
With Pauling’s yard back in form after a spell in the doldrums, hopes are high Le Breuil can prove himself a serious contender for the Randox Health Grand National with a bold showing on Saturday.
“He seems very well in himself, and I would hope he’ll run a big race,” said Pauling.
“He ran well enough in the Becher, and obviously we’re out of the woods since then.
“We’re very much looking forward to running him.”
Jamie Codd partnered Le Breuil at Cheltenham and on Merseyside – but with the leading Irish amateur unavailable this weekend, 7lb claimer Luca Morgan takes over in the saddle – and his allowance offsets a burden of 11st 12lb.
Pauling added: “Le Breuil has had an array of jockeys over the last few years. He’s Jamie’s ride, and he’ll keep the ride moving forward, but he couldn’t make it over from Ireland this weekend – so with top-weight, we thought we’d take 7lb off his back.
“We’ll take a view after Saturday, but I’d say he might have done enough and we could go straight to the National with him.”
Disputing favouritism for the three-mile-five-furlong showpiece are Kimberlite Candy and The Conditional.
The JP McManus-owned Kimberlite Candy ran an excellent race on his seasonal bow to finish second in the Becher Chase for Tom Lacey, who said: “It was a super run at Aintree, and he seems fit and well.
“He was pretty straight for the Becher, but he’s in good shape. It would be a worry if the ground is tacky, because he did disappoint in that sort of ground at Haydock last season. I don’t know whether the ground will be tacky or not, but that is a concern.
“He’ll need to put his best foot forward on Saturday if we’re going to think about that (Grand National) – because he will need to go up a few pounds.”
The Conditional was last seen filling the runner-up spot behind De Rasher Counter in the Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury.
His trainer David Bridgwater contemplated running in novice company on the big-race card, but ultimately decided to go for the feature event with a horse who also received an entry in the Magners Cheltenham Gold Cup earlier this week.
“We could have run in the novice, but he ran so well in the Ladbrokes Trophy we felt he deserved another shot at a really big prize – and he’s improved again since,” said Bridgwater.
“I’m not stupid – I know putting a 142-rated horse in the Gold Cup might make me look it, but were he to go and win this, I’d be kicking myself for not putting him in.
“The Gold Cup down the years is littered with talking horses who didn’t stay, and stayers hitting the frame at big prices. Every so often you’ll get a Kauto Star or a Best Mate who will dominate, but I don’t think we’re in that era now – it’s been hit and miss for a few years.
“For the sake of the entry fee, it is worth putting him in it – and if you’re not in, you can’t win.”
Impulsive Star won last year’s Classic Chase, but returns to defend his crown with plenty to prove after being pulled up on each of his three subsequent starts.
Trainer Neil Mulholland said: “It was just the way the ground was at Cheltenham the last time. It was too soft.
“He’s 4lb higher than when he won last year, but he’s stronger and a bit more streetwise. We’ll see how it goes.”
Petite Power is enjoying a fine season for Fergal O’Brien, winning successive races at Cheltenham and Uttoxeter before being narrowly denied a hat-trick at Exeter.
“He’s done nothing wrong apart from going up the weights, but he deserves to take his chance in a big one like this,” said O’Brien.
“Liam Harrison will take 7lb off, like he always does, and we’re looking forward to running him.”
The Michael Scudamore-trained Mysteree bolted up at Kelso in late October, before being pulled up in the Becher.
Scudamore said: “Obviously he’s 12 years of age now, so he’s not getting any younger or faster, but he’s still good at what he does – and everything else should be ideal for him.
“There’s plenty in his favour. The track should be fine, and he should enjoy the conditions.
“The one thing he does do is stay very well. We’re looking forward to it.”