The Saturday special moves on to Kempton this afternoon, when Nicky Henderson saddles Greenhope in his attempt to maintain a quite wondrous sequence of big-race, weekend victories.
Already lying in the bottom of the bag are successes in the Paddy Power, Tripleprint and First National Gold Cups, as well as the Victor Chandler Chase. With this run behind him, the Lambourn does not, as today's runner suggests, have to hope in the Lanzarote Hurdle. He can expect.
Greenhope is one of the form horses even if you ignore his connections and the fact the stable won this race 12 months ago with Non So. The seven-year-old made light of a racecourse absence of nearly a year over course and distance last month. It all looks in place.
Yet, as befits a race worth a few bob, there are alternatives. Paul Nicholls's Perouse is on a roll, but his place in the weights suggests he must have stood on the handicapper's foot at some point. Similarly, the young and imposing Kadount, from Alan King's yard, has been grounded with a 14lb penalty for completing his hat-trick at Leicester last time.
Martin Pipe does not let prizes of this nature go begging and has two shots, with Golden Alpha, who has given up on fences for the time being, and Idaho d'Ox. There have been stronger representatives from Pond House. A more interesting contestant, particularly if the rains stays away, is Richard Fahey's Altay, who was ostensibly off-colour when sixth to Rigmarole in the Greatwood Hurdle at Cheltenham. That, though, was a deep race and defeat no disgrace.
Altay should go well, but perhaps not quite as tellingly as a horse we can find back at the beginning of the argument. When Greenhope was making his victorious comeback in these surroundings last month he was most closely pursued by Hawadeth (nap 3.40), the Lanzarote runner-up 12 months ago.
Victor Dartnall's runner has a theoretical advantage at the weights now, while he will almost certainly prefer the guidance of Jim Culloty after the attentions of a 7lb claimer.
It should be a day of excitements for the Barnstaple trainer, who also sends out Lord Sam (12.50), a further springer in the market for the Festival's Royal & SunAlliance Novice Chase yesterday. The eight-year-old faces just four rivals as he attempts to maintain his winning sequence over fences.
"Andrew Thornton said he was barely out of a canter when he won at Lingfield and he jumped well and quickened up really well," Dartnall said yesterday. "He won at this meeting last year, having won there on Boxing Day as well. The idea is to give him as much experience before Cheltenham. That will be a big test."
There is a place also for another Cheltenham aspirant at Sunbury, where Caracciola (1.25), the slingshot conqueror of the supposedly unquenchable Thisthatandtother at this course just after Christmas, now tries to avoid humiliation himself. Convincing victory could have him challenging for Arkle Trophy favouritism.
The main theme at Wincanton is the return of Tony McCoy, who is back following a five-day suspension for carrying out a drum solo on the taut hide of Deano's Beano at Cheltenham on New Year's Eve. The champion has a full book of seven rides in his bid to ride the two winners he needs to take his career total to 2,000.
It is less than 17 months since McCoy became the winning-most British jump jockey when he beat Richard Dunwoody's total of 1,699 on Mighty Montefalco at Uttoxeter on 27 August, 2002. The pick of his mounts today include three of the four booked for champion trainer Martin Pipe - Magical Bailiwick, who is on a four-timer, the hat-trick seeking Waterlaw, and Tucacas, an easy winner at Exeter a month ago. Magical Bailiwick has both persuasive form figures and persuasive connections surrounding his name, but he is 18lb higher for a Ludlow victory earlier this month. Howdydoody (next best 2.50) has been done no favours by officialdom either, but he is better in.
Richard Johnson surpassed John Francome (1,138 winners) to become the fourth most successful jumps jockey of all time in Britain when landing a double at Huntingdon yesterday on Green Tango and Saragann. His career total now stands at 1,140
Next Tuesday's meeting at Towcester has been abandoned because the course is waterlogged and the fixture switched to Exeter. All six races will be re-opened until noon today.Reuse content