Fakir D’oudairies and Laurina are two of 12 entries for the Betway Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase at Sandown.
Joseph O’Brien’s Fakir D’oudairies was hugely impressive in winning his first two starts over Irish fences, including a Grade One success in the Drinmore Novice Chase at Fairyhouse.
The JP McManus-owned five-year-old found Notebook too strong on his latest appearance at Leopardstown over the festive period – and while he holds two entries at the Dublin Racing Festival this weekend, connections have also given him the option of running in Britain on Saturday.
The Willie Mullins-trained Laurina is another potential Irish raider. A previous winner at Sandown over hurdles, the high-class mare was pulled up after bursting a blood vessel in the same race in which Fakir D’oudairies finished second last month.
The potential home contingent includes Olly Murphy’s Itchy Feet, who faces a step up in class after dominating two inferior rivals on his chasing bow at Leicester. The six-year-old delighted his trainer in a schooling session after racing at Huntingdon on Friday.
Murphy said: “He jumped well in himself up the home straight (at Huntingdon). I just wanted Gavin Sheehan to sit on him because he didn’t get to ride him on his first start over fences, so that schooling session was ideal.
“All being well, he’ll go for the Scilly Isles. He’s a horse I’m looking forward to running, and the step up in trip will hopefully bring about more improvement from him.
“He has only had the one run over fences and he is now going into a Grade One, but at least he has jumped another few fences on a racecourse.
“He is a lovely horse that has done me proud. He ran well to finish third in the Supreme Novices’ (Hurdle) on soft ground – but all his other form is on better ground, and I do think he is better on that ground.”
Nicky Henderson has entered Champagne Platinum, Precious Cargo and Pym – while the Paul Nicholls-trained Grand Sancy and Midnight Shadow from Sue Smith’s are also among the hopefuls.
Henderson has been the dominant force in the the Betway Contenders Hurdle – saddling seven previous winners overall, including six of the last nine.
With three-time winner Buveur D’Air sidelined by injury this time around, the Seven Barrows handler is set to rely on International Hurdle hero Call Me Lord to provide him with a fourth straight victory.
“The plan is to go to the Contenders Hurdle on Saturday. We know he likes the track there, and he is in good form,” said Henderson.
“He might not be my first choice for the Champion Hurdle – but on the other hand, what has he done wrong? He has won the International and he has won this and that.
“Buveur D’Air has used the race as his prep for the Champion Hurdle – and as he is out of action, we might as well try and capture the race with this horse.”
Call Me Lord will face a maximum of six rivals in the two-mile Listed event. His potential opponents include Dan Skelton’s Marracudja, who could revert to the smaller obstacles after being handed a hefty rise in the weights for finishing third in the Clarence House Chase.