Keith Reveley’s nine-year-old saves his best for Town Moor and registered a five-length success in this renowned Grand National trial 12 months ago.
He is 10lb higher this time around, but deservedly so because he was touched off by just a head here in December before returning a month later to make the frame in the Sky Bet Chase.
Aintree is the ultimate goal and he is currently available at 50-1 for the National, having been allotted 10st 9lb.
Saltburn handler Reveley said: “He’s in great order. Hopefully, the rain will stay away and it will be good, fast ground.
“He won the race last year and has gone up a lot in the weights.
“He ran a cracker in the Sky Bet Chase there, the extra two furlongs will help him and he loves the track. We’re up a lot in the weights from last year, but that’s for a reason. He won the race well.
“The pleasing thing for me was he more or less ran off his new mark last time and ran very well.
“After that, the National will be his next run. We’re hoping for a good run. As long as he runs well and jumps well it will set him up nicely for the National and we’ll have a go there.”
Nigel Hawke is looking forward to running Samingarry as part of his preparation for the Coral Scottish Grand National at Ayr in April.
The eight-year-old returned from a four-month break with a respectable fifth place behind Knock A Hand at Carlisle earlier this month.
“The ground hasn’t been right so we sat quiet with him over the winter months. He wants better ground,” said Hawke.
“He had a nice race round Carlisle the other day and was only beaten eight-and-a-half lengths. He’ll improve for the run.
“Three-mile two round a flat track on better ground, I would think, will be ideal for him. He’s a fresh horse, while a lot of these will have had a lot of hard racing during the winter.
“Our long-term plan this season would be the Scottish National, so we’re building up to that race all the time.”
Nicky Richards has the Ayr showpiece in mind for Streams Of Whiskey, who is having his first run since finishing second over hurdles on this course in late November.
“He’s in good order. Basically, we’ve been sitting it out waiting for a bit better Spring-type ground through the depths of winter,” said the Greystoke trainer.
“We’ve always had the Grimthorpe half in mind and something like the Scottish National later on.
“We’ll get the run into him and see where we’re going.”
Trainer and amateur rider Mark Wall takes the mount on Theatre Queen as the mare can be troublesome at the start.
However, she is useful, having won six point-to-points and two hunter chases, as well as finishing second in a novice handicap chase at Ludlow last time. “She’s done a lot of point-to-pointing, so she’s had plenty of practice over jumps,” said the Cheltenham handler.
“She’s not your average novice, so it’s fingers crossed. It’s well known she has her quirks so she needs a bit of knowing.
“I’d like to be on the sidelines, to a certain degree, but I want to make sure everything goes right for her.”
Jamie Poulton is expecting a good run from Farbreaga, who was an easy winner at Uttoxeter three weeks ago.
“We’re very hopeful,” said the East Sussex trainer. “He had a very bloodless victory last time.
“The form looks okay. Obviously he has some decent old horses to beat, but we couldn’t be happier with him. We’d like a bit of rain, but I guess most of the others would, too.”
William Money carries bottom weight and is 1lb out of the handicap, but trainer Chris Grant is hopeful of a decent run.
“He won last time at Kelso and sees out all of the trip,” said the County Durham handler. “He seems in nice fettle so we hope he runs a nice race.”
There could be Cheltenham Festival pointers on the card, with Cardinal Walter attempting to force his way on to Nicky Henderson’s team in the opening Novices’ Hurdle.
Useful on the level, the son of Cape Cross struck at the first time of asking over obstacles over this course and distance, before losing little in defeat behind the promising Qewy at Newbury, and he holds entries in both the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle and Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle next month.
Batavir sits at the head of the betting for the Pertemps Final and his price could contract further if he completes a hat-trick in the BetBright Mobile App Handicap Hurdle.
The French import did not take long to settle into his new surroundings at David Pipe’s Pond House base, and he followed a UK debut third by justifying favouritism at Ascot just before Christmas.
This was supplemented with another success under a 6lb penalty at Wincanton on Boxing Day and he appears to have more in his locker as he continues his ascent up the handicap.
AP McCoy is an interesting booking for A Doll In Milan in the Listed BetBright Cheltenham Festival Fund Mares Novices’ Hurdle. The five-year-old got stuck in the mud in the Welsh Champion Hurdle, but is better judged on her previous emphatic victory at Wetherby.