Clondaw Castle and Bun Doran give Tom George a strong hand in the rearranged Fitzdares Club Loves The Peterborough Chase at Cheltenham.
High-class two-mile chaser Bun Doran will step up to two and a half miles for the first time since the spring of 2018 in a Grade Two contest that was saved from last Sunday’s abandoned meeting at Huntingdon.
Clondaw Castle was not due to contest the race last weekend, but is a definite contender at Prestbury Park judged on his Newbury victory of a fortnight ago.
George said: “Clondaw Castle was second in the Old Roan at Aintree on his first run of the season and won well at Newbury. He’s in good form I think he’s progressing well.
“He was also in the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup on Saturday, but I was worried the ground might be too soft by then.
“We’re going into unknown territory with Bun Doran – stepping him up in trip. He’s too high in the weights for a lot of two-mile handicaps, so we’ll see how he gets on over two and a half. I’m open-minded about it really.”
Another leading fancy who was not due to run at Huntingdon is Kalashnikov.
Amy Murphy’s stable star prefers a left-handed track – and having been just touched off in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle a few years ago, he clearly acts at Cheltenham.
“Kalashnikov is in good shape,” said Murphy.
“I was really pleased with his comeback effort at Haydock (over hurdles), where he got tired late on and probably didn’t stay three miles on that ground.
“The Peterborough Chase wasn’t Plan A, but now it is being run on a left-handed track, it made sense to go as he is much better going this way round.”
On the other hand, Paul Nicholls is not as enamoured the race was moved to Cheltenham for Dolos.
He told Betfair: “I was very keen on his chances in this race on Sunday at Huntingdon as he is well suited by racing on a flat track.
“Two and a half miles is ideal for Dolos, who is so consistent and again ran a fine race under top weight at Cheltenham in October when fourth to Rouge Vif.
“But I’d have been more confident if the race hadn’t been transferred from Huntingdon to Cheltenham.”
Nicky Henderson is once again the man to beat in the race, with both Top Notch and Mister Fisher declared.
Henderson has won the race seven times and is looking to join Henrietta Knight on eight wins, with Top Notch himself bidding for a Peterborough hat-trick on his reappearance.
Henderson told Unibet: “I am sure that the wind operation will help Top Notch. It has helped him, but it has held me up.
“It is possible that he might need the run, but he is able to do another piece of work (with the extra week), which might just help him.
“The rain came so suddenly before Mister Fisher’s reappearance at Cheltenham, really I should have taken him out, because we knew it was pointless running him, but the rain only came an hour before the race and we were committed.
“Nico (de Boinville) was well aware of it and he pulled him up in bags of time. It was horrible that day, we had a whole lot of horses that just couldn’t cope with it at all and he was one of them. He seems in really good form at home.”
The Venetia Williams-trained Fanion D’Estruval and Glen Forsa from Mick Channon’s yard complete the field.
In the Grade Three Unibet Handicap Chase over three and a quarter miles, Nicholls runs top-weight Black Corton, who departed just after halfway in the race won by Imperial Aura at Ascot last time out.
“He was rather unlucky at Ascot last time when he stumbled on landing and parted company with Bryony Frost,” said Nicholls.
“Life isn’t easy for him off a mark of 160, but he seems very well and I’m putting on cheek pieces to try to sharpen him up a bit.
“He’s won twice at Cheltenham in the past and will run his usual genuine race, though he wouldn’t want too much rain overnight.”
Court Maid won a valuable prize at Fairyhouse just 12 days ago for the father and son combination of Tom and David Mullins – and turns out relatively quickly under a penalty.
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