Both the Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown and the Rehearsal Chase at Chepstow have attracted horses who may well be champions when the Festival concludes at Cheltenham in March, and the two courses could argue for the rest of the week about which race promises to be the better.
At Sandown, the former two-mile champion Klairon Davis is expected to face Lake Kariba, Edredon Bleu and the first two home in last season's Arkle Trophy - Or Royal and Hill Society - who were separated by the width of a toothpick in one of the best finishes of the Festival. If any or all of them line up for the next Queen Mother Champion Chase, they will not be quoted with the outsiders.
On bare form at least, Lake Kariba might be expected to start as favourite on Saturday, since he beat Edredon Bleu with some comfort in the Haldon Chase at Exeter last month. Edredon Bleu improved significantly for that race, though, and came home 14 lengths clear of a strong field in the Peterborough Chase at Huntingdon 10 days ago. That, along with a record of consistent improvement last season which culminated in success in the Grand Annual Chase at the Festival, has persuaded Ladbrokes to install Henrietta Knight's runner at the head of their Tingle Creek market, at odds of just 2-1.
The price is a compliment to a horse who was simply a useful handicapper less than 12 months ago, but then there is also the McCoy factor to consider. The champion jockey spent yesterday at the British Racing School in Newmarket, receiving advice on his whip action in an attempt to avoid a repeat of the riding ban which has kept him off the track for most of the last fortnight.
Saturday will be McCoy's first day back from his British ban, and there could be no better way to announce his return than victory in a Grade One chase. In theory, he has the choice of at least four possible runners, but it would be a surprise were he to choose anything other than Edredon Bleu. The next in the market is Lake Kariba, to be ridden by Timmy Murphy, at 11-4, while Hill Society, Paul Carberry's ride, is a 9-2 chance. Direct Route is 8-1, while Klairon Davis, the 1996 two-mile champion, is 9-1
Another significant ride for McCoy will be Blowing Wind, who was the early favourite yesterday in the sponsors' book on the William Hill Handicap Hurdle. Nomadic, who was beaten by Istabraq at Fairyhouse on Sunday, is next in the betting.
At Chepstow, meanwhile, See More Business will attempt to win the Rehearsal Chase for the second year in succession. Earth Summit and Suny Bay, the top-rated chaser in Britain after his recent win in the Edward Hanmer Chase, are among his possible opponents, although Suny Bay is also entered in the Tommy Whittle Chase the following week. None the less, the latest weekend of the jumping season will be one which only the weather could spoil.
Newton Abbot 2.35
C H L S T
Saxon Duke 2-1 2-1 7-4 9-4 15-8
Gigi Beach 5-2 5-2 3-1 11-4 3-1
Baroncelli 7-2 7-2 7-2 3-1 10-3
Bally Lira 6-1 11-2 6-1 11-2 6-1
True Fortune 9-1 9-1 8-1 15-2 7-1
Moorland Highfly 10-1 12-1 11-1 12-1 12-1
Each way, a quarter the odds, places 1, 2
C Coral, H Wm Hill, L Ladbrokes, S Stanley, T ToteReuse content