It is difficult to look beyond Altior in the Betfair Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown.
While he was denied the chance to run in this race last year due to a setback, everything has gone to plan for Nicky Henderson’s charge this time around.
That should spell bad news for his rivals because, even though the time to catch him might be first time out, he was at his brilliant best in the Game Spirit last year after an even longer lay-off.
That day he dismissed the top-class Politologue as if he were a mere handicapper, and the only hope his rivals may have is that he briefly looked in trouble in the Champion Chase.
Turning into the straight, Nico De Boinville was sending out distress signals – but after the turbo kicked in, he eventually won by seven lengths.
The last time we saw him was over this course and distance in the Celebration Chase in April, when his strongest furlong was again the last.
That has led some to raise the possibility of a King George bid – but while he is mopping up Grade Ones over this trip, connections will be happy.
Another short-priced runner who looks impossible to oppose is Lalor in the randoxhealth.com Henry VIII Novices’ Chase.
A Grade One winner over hurdles, all his best form had previously been in the spring, but he smashed that theory when making a sparkling winning chasing debut at Cheltenham.
This race was not originally on the agenda, but for a small yard it is hard to pass up a Grade One which looks his for the taking if he jumps like the proverbial stag once more.
There are several previous winners over the Grand National fences in action at Aintree as the Randox Health Becher Chase takes centre stage.
Blaklion, Vieux Lion Rouge, Highland Lodge and Ultragold have all scaled the heights – but if Bryony Frost can get Present Man into the same rhythm as she does at Wincanton, they could be hard to beat.
The 7lb rise for winning the Badger Ales Trophy may anchor him. But on this course more than any other, jumping is key – and Frost is one of the best in the business at getting them to do that.
There is a slight concern about him going left-handed because the last time he did he did not jump straight, but the hopes is that the uniqueness of the fences will help him to address that.
Grand National winner One for Arthur returns in the Rewards4Racing Many Clouds Chase but faces a stiff task after a long lay-off up against Definitly Red.
At Wetherby, the in-form Phil Kirby’s Little Bruce can atone for an early exit at Haydock two weeks ago in the Jigsaw Sports Branding Chase.
Flemcara may be able to spring a surprise at Chepstow in the Ron Mills 70th Birthday Chase.
Emma Lavelle’s six-year-old was tailed off last on his chase debut last month. That was a decent race, though, and Flemcara went well in the mud several times over hurdles last season and has the physique to do well over fences.
John Gosden’s Frankel colt New King can be expected to step up markedly on his debut when he turns up in the first division of the Ladbrokes Home Of The Odds Boost EBF Novice Stakes at Wolverhampton.
Very slowly away at Lingfield, he eventually made good progress to finish fourth of 11 and can be expected to be a good deal more streetwise.
Richard Hughes has given Sunsprite a lengthy break, presumably with a crack at the All-Weather Championships in mind, and he looks interesting in the Ladbrokes Conditions Stakes.
He won three on the spin before finishing a fine third to Sporting Chance in a Listed race at Ripon, with the winner going on to land a Group Three.
Sporting Life tips:
AINTREE: 11.55 Eldorado Allen, 12.25 Lord Bryan, 1.00 Midnight Shadow, 1.30 Present Man, 2.05 Definitly Red, 2.40 Giving Glances, 3.15 Captain Redbeard.
CHEPSTOW: 12.20 West Wizard, 12.55 Full Tilt, 1.25 Dominateur, 1.55 Flemcara, 2.30 Wild West Wind, 3.05 Poker Play, 3.40 Ballybreen.
NAVAN: 12.00 Eclair De Beaufeu, 12.30 Fizzlestick, 1.05 Danse Away, 1.35 Us And Them, 2.10 Chris’s Dream, 2.45 Goose Man, 3.20 Super Follo.
SANDOWN: 12.15 I Can’t Explain, 12.50 Jubilympics, 1.20 Eminent Poet, 1.50 Lalor, 2.25 Apple’s Shakira, 3.00 ALTIOR (NAP), 3.35 Red Infantry.
WETHERBY: 12.05 Two For Gold, 12.40 Overawed, 1.10 Aliandy, 1.40 Little Bruce, 2.15 Wakanda, 2.50 Some Reign, 3.25 Mergeela.
WOLVERHAMPTON: 5.15 Bubbly, 5.45 New King, 6.15 Into The Zone, 6.45 Sunsprite, 7.15 Monumental Man, 7.45 Atty Persse, 8.15 Cloudlam, 8.45 Foxy Lady.
DOUBLE: Altior and Lalor.