OWNER Graham Roach admits to having slight stamina doubts regarding gambled-on The Nightingale, stablemate to Kauto Stark, in tomorrow's rearranged William Hill King George VI Chase at Kempton.
Ever since trainer Paul Nicholls suggested the likely soft ground would be in his favour, the horse's price has tumbled and the second-season novice is 8-1 third favourite.
Although the progressive chaser was an easy winner of a Grade Two chase at Down Royal in November, his only run this season, Roach is still uncertain about the eight-year-old's chances.
"The only ground he wouldn't run on is anything with the word firm in it because he feels it with his feet," said Roach.
"He looked good at Down Royal, but the big 'if' has to be is he good enough for the company and will he get the trip? He's never run over it before but a lot of people seem to think he can.
"The ground was pretty soft at Down Royal, but it could put an extra emphasis on his stamina.
"Kauto Star is the best horse there's been for donkeys' years, but there is always a young pretender."
As well as the Nicholls pair, seven others will go to post.
Nicky Henderson looks like posing the biggest threat to Kauto Star with two fancied runners – much-hyped Long Run and Riverside Theatre, owned by actor James Nesbitt.
Last season's runner-up Madison Du Berlais will represent David Pipe while Charlie Hall Chase winner Nacarat, fourth last season, takes his place and Jonjo O'Neill has declared Albertas Run.
Philip Hobbs's Planet Of Sound, the Punchestown Gold Cup winner, will also take his chance. Following the anticipated withdrawal of Sizing Europe, the sole Irish challenger is Tom Cooper's Forpadydeplasterer, the 2009 Arkle Trophy winner.
Denis O'Regan returned to one of his old stomping grounds to great acclaim as he lifted the Watt Fences North Yorkshire Grand National at Catterick on General Hardi.
O'Regan rode plenty of winners at the Richmondshire venue as stable jockey to Howard Johnson, but he is a less frequent visitor since his split with trainer Howard Johnson last year and his subsequent move down south to Lambourn.
Partnering the 10-year-old for John Wade, who is recuperating from a broken leg suffered while skiing, General Hardi appeared to be in a hopeless position rounding the final bend as the favourite According To Pete reeled in long-time leader Star Beat.
However, O'Regan got a great tune out of the 16-1 shot inside the final furlong to win by half a length from the Graham Lee-ridden According To Pete.
"It was great. He's a very genuine horse and stays well. To be fair to Brian Hughes he told me all about him so a bit of the credit must go to him," said O'Regan.
"He said if he isn't travelling early doors just let him find his own feet. I'm delighted for John Wade really, he's such a top man and always gives me rides when he can."
James Reveley was taken to hospital for precautionary x-rays on his leg after a fall in the opener. The Saltburn rider's luck was totally out as he missed a winner for his father Keith on Heavenly Chorus who was ridden by amateur Colm McCormack.
In Cheltenham entries released yesterday, Ferdy Murphy's stable star Kalahari King is lined up for the two-and-a-half mile Ryanair Chase rather than the Queen Mother Champion Chase over a shorter distance, and in which two-time winner Master Minded is a hot favourite.
Spirit Son (1.40 Huntingdon), nap and On His Own (1.20 Musselburgh).
Spirit Son, On His Own and Mr Gardner (2.10 Huntingdon).
Silver Dollars (1.10 Huntingdon), nap and Mr Gardner (2.10 Huntingdon).
Ballabrook (3.20 Musselburgh).