Lord Transcend, the big grey who would be a serious Gold Cup contender in the unlikely event of heavy ground at Cheltenham in March, seems sure to find the mud flying when he returns to action in the Tommy Whittle Chase at Haydock tomorrow.
The lightly-raced eight-year-old will be having his first run since thrashing First Gold by 10 lengths at the Merseyside track in January.
Tony Dobbin visited Howard Johnson's yard earlier this week to school Lord Transcend ahead of the three-mile handicap in which he must carry top weight.
"I went to Howard's on Tuesday morning and I sat on Lord Transcend, schooled him over a few fences and he seems very well in himself," Dobbin said.
"He jumped really well and he looked a picture. He won his novice chase and then got injured which meant he had a season off before coming back for last year. He is a brittle horse and Howard does the right thing by running him when he should."
Lord Transcend is unbeaten in two starts at Haydock and is a 33-1 chance for the Cheltenham Gold Cup, although Dobbin feels conditions there could be against him.
"He won the Peter Marsh Chase on heavy ground and he makes very soft ground look like good ground," added the jockey. "For him to win a Gold Cup it would have to be very soft and there are plenty of other good races to be won."
One Knight, one of the country's top out-and-out stayers, is due to make his seasonal reappearance in the Welsh National at Chepstow on 27 December.
Despite the nine-year-old having been absent from a racecourse for 12 months, trainer Philip Hobbs is not worried. One Knight has won on his seasonal bow three times previously. He won the Rehearsal Chase at the Welsh venue last December but he was subsequently sidelined by injury.
Hobbs is hoping he can show his winning form again. "He's won at Chepstow four times, so going for the Welsh National for his first race is not a concern," said Hobbs at his Minehead stables.
One Knight is 10-1 with the race sponsors, Coral, for the race in which he is set to carry 11st 5lb. Coral spokesman Simon Clare said: "It would be tremendous for a classy horse like One Knight to win the race, but it has proved tricky for horses carrying more than 11st to win it in recent times.
"When Carvill's Hill won the race in the early 1990s, it was one of the great weight-carrying performances that we have seen in horse racing."
Mick Fitzgerald set himself up for tomorrow's Tingle Creek Trophy at Sandown when schooling hot favourite Kauto Star at Paul Nicholls' yard yesterday morning.
Fitzgerald said later: "He is a very quick jumper, is very light on his feet and has bags of scope. I loved him."
Rathgar Beau was forced out of the race by a dirty scope yesterday, so a field of just seven runners will go to post with Nicholls' one-time Arkle hope the 11-8 market leader with the sponsors, William Hill.
Year ends badly as Hughes is banned
Richard Hughes, who has had a poor year by his high standards, will now spend most of December on the sidelines after being handed a 22-day ban by the Jockey Club's disciplinary panel yesterday.
The Irish Flat jockey was found guilty of improper riding on third-placed Screwdriver at Lingfield on 15 November. The track's stewards referred the matter to the panel because Hughes had been suspended from riding for a total 21 days for interference within the previous 12 months.
The suspension will run from 9 December until 29 December on days when Flat racing takes place. Five days will be deferred until 8 June next year
l Missed That, the Champion Bumper winner at Cheltenham in March, could finish only third on his debut over fences at Thurles yesterday. Trainer Willie Mullins offered no excuses for the six-year-old, who was sent off the 1-2 favourite but was well beaten.
Nap: Massini's Maguire
NB: Boy's Hurrah