Fundamentalist, who defeated Inglis Drever to take the 2004 Royal & SunAlliance Novices' Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival, is on course to make his long-awaited seasonal return in Tuesday's Castleford Chase at Wetherby. The seven-year-old has not run since unseating Carl Llewellyn in the Dipper Novices' Chase at Cheltenham last January.
Nigel Twiston-Davies's charge subsequently suffered a tendon injury, which cut short his season. The Naunton trainer said: "I'm very happy with how he's progressed. All being well, he'll go for the Victor Chandler Chase at the end of January and then the Queen Mother Champion Chase."
Howard Johnson, Inglis Drever's trainer, has entered the well-regarded El Vaquero for the Castleford, while the World Hurdle winner himself will face a maximum of 11 rivals in the rescheduled Long Walk Hurdle at Chepstow the same day following the news that Baracouda will miss the race after meeting with a minor setback. Johnson could in fact have two runners as No Refuge is also entered, while Paul Nicholls is to run impressive novice winner Neptune Collonges.
With frost forecast for Christmas Day, Sandown's clerk of the course, Andrew Cooper, is considering staging a precautionary 7.30am inspection on Monday before that day's main event, the King George VI Chase.
Jamie and Gary Moore were partially successful at the Jockey Club yesterday in appeals against penalties imposed over the running and riding of Lewis Island at Doncaster this month.
Jamie Moore now faces a 10-day, rather than 20-day ban, while his father had his fine reduced from £2,900 to £1,000. However, the horse will still be suspended from running for 40 days.
William Hill are to take on the three-year sponsorship of the Lincoln Handicap, inherited following the acquisition of Stanley Leisure. Traditionally run at Doncaster, the race will be staged at Redcar in 2006 due to the 18-month redevelopment of the South Yorkshire venue.
l Racing takes its pre-Christmas break today and tomorrow but returns on Boxing Day with eight cards.