Cheltenham Festival winner Imperial Aura is one of six runners declared for Sunday’s Colin Parker Memorial Intermediate Chase at Carlisle.
The two-and-a-half-mile Listed contest has an illustrious roll of honour, with subsequent Grand National hero Many Clouds (2014), the top-class Waiting Patiently (2017) and last year’s Betfair Chase scorer Lostintranslation among the recent winners.
This year’s renewal promises to be as informative as ever, with Kim Bailey’s Imperial Aura the top-rated runner on his first start since winning the novices’ handicap chase at Prestbury Park in March.
“He’s in good form and ready to go,” said Bailey.
“He’s in the Paddy Power Gold Cup at Cheltenham (November 14), but we’ll see how he goes on Sunday before deciding what we do.
“He’s in good shape.”
The Olly Murphy-trained Brewin’upastorm had a less favourable experience at Cheltenham last season, unseating Richard Johnson four fences from home in the Arkle Trophy.
The Milan gelding made a successful start to his chasing career at this venue last October and Murphy is looking forward to his return to action in Cumbria on Sunday.
Murphy said: “He’s in good form and will handle the ground fine – probably some of his best form is on soft ground.
“It’s very much a race to try to get his confidence back, as he obviously didn’t have a great time of it at Cheltenham and gave himself a bit of a fright.
“I’m really looking forward to running him and it looks a good starting point for the year. If he ran well, I thought we might look at something like the Peterborough Chase.”
Black Op has not been seen since filling the runner-up spot behind Slate House in the Kauto Star Novices’ Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day of last year, with the outbreak of coronavirus putting paid to planned runs at the spring Festivals at Aintree and Punchestown.
Trainer Tom George said: “It will be good to get him back on track as he hasn’t run since last Christmas. We purposely missed Cheltenham, waiting for Aintree and Punchestown with him, and we ended up missing them all.
“This is a good starting point for him. The target is the Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury and he needs to have a run before then, so we thought this race would put him right for that.
“He’s in good form and we’re happy with him, but this is a stepping-stone.”
Anthony Honeyball’s Sam Brown, the Brian Ellison-trained Windsor Avenue and Ardlethen from Dan Skelton’s yard complete the quality sextet.