Alan King has been eyeing the Sky Bet Chase at Doncaster for the improving Canelo ever since his Rowland Meyrick success on Boxing Day.
The JP McManus-owned eight-year-old has always been highly regarded at Barbury Castle Stables, and is now delivering on that promise.
A win at Aintree was followed by a runner-up spot to Cap Du Nord at Newbury, before he beat Snow Leopardess over Christmas.
“He’s done very little wrong this year and has been very progressive since we put the headgear (cheekpieces) on him,” said King.
“He’s improved race for race, and this looked the logical place to go after his win in the Rowland Meyrick.
“That might have been a decent race – he beat the right horse (Snow Leopardess), who had won at Haydock before.
“He’s on 148 now, he travels very well through his races but might not do a whole lot when he hits the front. I’m hoping there’s a bit more to come from him.
“This will be another test, but it looked the obvious place to come after Wetherby.”
Aye Right bids to gain due reward on Saturday for a series of consistent efforts.
Trained in the Scottish Borders by Harriet Graham, the eight-year-old was second over an inadequate two miles and a furlong first time out this season to subsequent Old Roan winner Nuts Well.
He was then a very creditable third to Cyrname in the Charlie Hall Chase before posting arguably a career-best effort when second in the Ladbrokes Trophy to Cloth Cap.
Since then, Aye Right has run in a jumpers’ bumper at Newcastle – where he showed up well for a long way before finishing sixth – but Graham does not want the ground to get any softer.
Graham told Sky Sports Racing: “We’ve been hit hard by the weather up here – we’ve only just got rid of the snow, but James Armstrong at Newcastle has been helpful, (so Aye Right) galloped there the other day and ran in a jumpers’ bumper.
“He’s a very consistent horse and he’s easy to train. He’s always jig-jogging and loves to go out. We sometimes feel we do too much with him, but Callum (Bewley) said he couldn’t pull him up the other day – he nearly went round again.
“We’ll not run if it gets heavy, but the forecast is much more positive now. Earlier in the week, I didn’t think we’d be running. In an ideal world I’d have liked it to be good to soft – and probably over another three furlongs.”
Cap Du Nord has been all the rage for this race all week as Christian Williams attempts to win a contest he landed as a jockey on Big Fella Thanks in 2009.
A winner at Newbury in November, Cap Du Nord then chased home Royale Pagaille at Kempton over Christmas – form which continues to be well advertised.
The winner scored in even easier fashion at Haydock last weekend to be talked of as a Gold Cup candidate – while the third Double Shuffle, 19 lengths behind Cap Du Nord, won next time out.
Despite the handicapper raising Cap Du Nord twice since his initial reassessment, he is 3lb well-in because this was an early closing race.
“We thought it would be competitive. But it’s good prize-money, and I think the track will suit our horse,” said Williams.
“It’s nice to be in a feature race on a Saturday. It’s great to have a horse on the upgrade with a chance.
“Cap Du Nord could go for the cross-country race at Cheltenham, along with Potters Corner. I’ll speak to the owner. We’ll see how we get on on Saturday.
“There’s a chance he could get in the Grand National. We might go straight there, or we could use the cross-country race at Cheltenham for him.”
Trainer Olly Murphy has always had a high opinion of The Butcher Said, but he fears the ground may be too testing this weekend for him to show his best.
“I think he’s well capable of winning a nice handicap,” said Murphy.
“I’m not sure he wants it as testing as it’s going to be – but he’s in good form, and it’s worth a lot of money.
“He’d have an each-way chance if he got the rub of the green and things went his way.”
Paul Nicholls runs Give Me A Copper, who is part-owned by Sir Alex Ferguson.
“He hasn’t been the easiest to train and made a very pleasing return from a year off when keeping on stoutly to run Rocky’s Treasure close at this track last month,” Nicholls told Betfair.
“Doncaster suits him well – he handles the ground, and we know he is a proper stayer. Give Me A Copper is in serious order at the moment, which is key to his performance. When he is right, he is a good horse.”
The Nick Williams-trained One For The Team and Philip Hobbs’ Musical Slave are others among the market leaders.