Trainer Richard Bandey is anticipating another bold showing from Diesel D’Allier in the Glenfarclas Crystal Cup at Cheltenham on Friday.
The eight-year-old won around the Prestbury Park cross-country track two years ago for French trainer Emmanuel Clayeux, before going on to finish fourth behind Easysland at the 2020 Cheltenham Festival.
Having switched yards earlier this year, Diesel D’Allier returned to the Cotswolds to finish third last month behind Back On The Lash and Singing Banjo, both of whom are in opposition again.
Bandey said: “He’s in great form. He had a pop over some cross-country fences the other day and nearly dropped his lad in the woods!
“We’ve just kept him fresh and well for the last month and we’re hopeful of a nice run.
“I think the ground will be more in his favour. If we get some softer ground, it’s not going to do him any harm and might not do the winner any favours. That’s my hopeful thought, anyway.
“I was really pleased with how he ran last time. I’d underestimated how well he was and he’s bound to come on a bit, but I don’t think there was too much wrong with his last run.
“If he can reproduce that, we’ll be happy.”
Back On The Lash is one of two runners for Martin Keighley along with Talkischeap, who unseated Tom Bellamy at the 18th obstacle in the November contest.
“Hopefully Talkischeap can have a clear round this time because I think he’s capable of running a big race. He was running a good race last time and seemed to really enjoy being back there again last week,” said Keighley.
“With Back On The Lash, I’m not sure any other horse has won there at the first time of asking. They normally need the experience so you’d hope there’d be more to come from him now he’s had a run.
“He’s only gone up 3lb for winning so I was happy with that. You’d like to think he’s got a good career ahead of him in these races.”
The Philip Rothwell-trained Singing Banjo is part of a strong Irish challenge that also includes Enda Bolger’s Midnight Maestro, Henry de Bromhead’s pair of Plan Of Attack and Balko Des Flos and Call It Magic from Ross O’Sullivan’s yard.
O’Sullivan said of his runner: “He loves the cross country – he won at Punchestown at the festival last season.
“He’s getting on a bit in years and he’s been a great servant to the yard. We’ve had great run.
“I’m looking forward for a good run. It will be his first time round that course, but he has been round similar courses on a good few occasions.
“He loves the cross-country races, so we are hoping for a good run and looking forward to a good day at Cheltenham.”