Ferdy Murphy is considering running Kalahari King with a first-time tongue-tie in Saturday’s Amlin 1965 Chase at Ascot.
The 10-year-old has finished in the money at the last four Cheltenham Festivals, running Albertas Run close in the Ryanair Chase on his latest visit to Prestbury Park.
He failed to fire on his seasonal reappearance at Kelso and it was subsequently revealed the French-bred gelding had broken a blood vessel.
Murphy expects considerable improvement this weekend, and the West Witton handler said: “He’s an intended runner at the moment and we’re thinking we might stick a tongue-tie on him for the first time.
“He worked with it on Tuesday morning and Graham (Lee) was very happy with him.
“He’ll do another bit of work later in the week and we’ll see then, but we might just leave it on for Saturday and see how we go.
“He’s come out of the race at Kelso very well. John Roche, the lad who rides him out every day, tells me he feels great.
“He did break a blood vessel at Kelso so hopefully we can avoid that happening again.
“He’ll improve a lot for that first run of the season – he always does.”
Norton trainer Malcolm Jefferson plans to let Cape Tribulation make his seasonal reappearance in the valuable betfair.com/paulnicholls “Fixed Brush” Handicap Hurdle at Haydock.
The seven-year-old suffered an injury in the early part of last season at Carlisle, but returned from a break to fill the runner-up spot over fences a couple of times in February.
He is set to revert to smaller obstacles for his comeback run, providing conditions are to Jefferson’s liking.
“He’s an intended runner as long as the ground is all right,” he said.
“We thought about running him in the Paddy Power last weekend but the ground was too fast for him there and hopefully that isn’t the case on Saturday.
“I think they are forecasting a bit of rain at Haydock, so hopefully they get that as he’s been ready to run for a couple of weeks now and he’s in good order.
“He doesn’t need it soft, I’d just like to see some nice jumping ground for him. It’s a 48-hour declaration race so I’ll probably declare him and then we’ll see.
“He’s won first time out plenty of times so that wouldn’t be a worry.
“I’d like the top horses to stay in so the weights don’t go up too much.”
Connections of Nacarat have yet to decide whether to take their chance in what promises to be a stellar Betfair Chase at the Merseyside venue.
Last year’s Charlie Hall Chase hero was only fourth when trying to defend his crown at Wetherby on his seasonal return, but could line up against the likes of Long Run and Kauto Star on Saturday, or wait for a race at Aintree two weeks later.
“No decision’s been made yet. I’m going to speak to Simon Clarke (owner) and we’ll make our mind up then. We’re going to wait and see who’s likely to be running,” said George.
“Our other options are at Aintree on December 3 in a Listed chase there and the Grand Sefton. The only temptation is the ground. It looks as though it might be right for him, but the other side of it is that it’s not going to be easy.”
Ruby Walsh feels Kauto Star could be the value bet as he goes for a fourth victory in the Grade One contest.
The 11-year-old looked slightly past his best last season, but still performed with credit behind Long Run in both the King George VI Chase at Kempton and the Cheltenham Gold Cup.
He renews rivalry with Nicky Henderson’s excellent six-year-old, and Walsh feels that while Long Run is likely to improve for the outing, Kauto Star is ready to fire.
“I’m looking forward to getting back on Kauto Star, a horse who has given me so many incredible moments,” Walsh told racinguk.com. “You’d have to say he’s a big price as Long Run comes here as defending champion and this will be a stepping stone to the King George and Gold Cup.
“In contrast, every day now could be D-day for Kauto Star – I know Paul’s worked him pretty hard so he definitely won’t be lacking for fitness.”
Reigning Champion Hurdle hero Hurricane Fly will not be seen this weekend, however, Willie Mullins ruling out a run in the Ladbrokes.com Morgiana Hurdle at Punchestown on Sunday.
Unbeaten in his last six starts, the seven-year-old was a short-priced favourite to make a winning return, but is to swerve the Grade One contest over two miles.
Hurricane Fly also missed the Morgiana 12 months ago as he was suffering with a cough.