Wetherby winner Willie Boy – the mount of Gavin Sheehan – has yet to try further than two miles and five furlongs under rules and faces a significant test of class.
“Three miles is an unknown, but we think he will probably get it,” said the Cotswolds trainer. “I hope it will really suit him, and he’ll actually improve for it.
“Of course, there are plenty of point-to-point winners who only get two miles. But for him, I think going over three could just slow things down a bit and help him.
“It’s been well documented he’s had a few issues with his jumping. He’s in great form with himself.”
Malton trainer Peter Niven’s Brian Boranha represents Yorkshire on his first start since winning the Durham National at Sedgefield in October under Henry Brooke.
Dingo Dollar is favourite based on his excellent run in the Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury when third to the sidelined Sizing Tennessee. However Alan King’s charge is not a guaranteed runner because of quick conditions on Town Moor.
Meanwhile former champion trainer Paul Nicholls is represented by top weight Warriors Tale, runner-up 12 months ago to Wakanda in a frenetic five-way finish, and Art Mauresque.
Though both have strong claims, Nicholls will be disappointed if Dynamite Dollars does not win the Grade Two Lightning Novices’ Chase under Harry Cobden.
The six-year-old is already a leading contender for the Arkle Trophy at the Cheltenham Festival following high-profile successes at Sandown and Kempton last month.
His task has also been made easier by the absence of Kayley Woollacott’s Lalor because of the going – her stable star will now head straight to the Arkle.
Nicholls’s assistant Harry Derham said: “We have one day in mind and that’s in March. He’s not absolutely primed for Saturday and I’m sure he’ll improve, but at the same time we’d be hoping he’s fit and well enough to run very well.”
Sue Smith’s Cracking Find lived up to his name and dug deep to win the feature race on day one of the Sky Bet Chase meeting.
The victory followed the horse’s fine victory in Wetherby’s Castleford Chase on December 27 for overjoyed owner Ann Ellis.
Stepped up in class, Cracking Find was briefly headed by Brian Ellison’s Forest Bihan at the final fence in this two mile handicap chase before pulling clear under jockey Sean Quinlan.
The irony is that Cracking Find’s regular rider Danny Cook was on the runner-up – but he could not do the 10st weight on the winner which did also confirm the wellbeing of the Smith stable ahead of Midnight Shadow’s much-anticipated reappearance at Cheltenham today.
Earlier Wishfull Dreaming won the novice chase for Guiseley trainer Sam England and her husband Jonathan who was in the saddle.