Robbie Power is counting his blessings after getting the mount on Duffle Coat for Gordon Elliott in the JCB Triumph Trial Juvenile Hurdle at Cheltenham on Saturday.
The Gold Cup-winning jockey is reaping the benefit of deciding to base himself in Britain, because of Covid-19 travel restrictions, and is rewarded with the plum ride on the unbeaten Irish raider.
Duffle Coat has won all his three starts over hurdles, with the first two coming closer to home at Punchestown and Gowran, before completing the hat-trick in emphatic fashion at Wetherby last month.
“It’s working in my favour that currently if one of the lads based in Ireland comes over to ride they have to isolate for 14 days, so it’s one of the advantages of being based here,” said Power.
“Duffle Coat was a good winner at Wetherby. But I’ve a lot of respect for Paul Nicholls’ Hell Red – he was very impressive at Chepstow.
“It’s a step up in class, but hopefully he’s up to it.”
French import Hell Red is sure to have his supporters, but Nicholls would prefer to see some rain.
“The slower the ground the better for Hell Red, who won readily on his debut for us at Chepstow a month ago,” he said.
“His jumping was slick that day, and the good thing is that he doesn’t get a penalty for that success. While this is obviously tougher, I do rate Hell Red – who seems to be improving – so I am hopeful of a big run.”
David Pipe’s Adagio also began his career across the Channel.
He was a clear winner of a dramatic race at Warwick this month for David Pipe, who is hoping he will be able to handle the quick turnaround.
“Adagio was good at Warwick,” said Pipe.
“Obviously this race comes up quickly. Tom (Scudamore) schooled him again the other day, and he jumped fine.
“While he’s in good form, we’ll let him take his chance again.”
Power has another good ride in his role as stable jockey to Colin Tizzard on Eldorado Allen in the From The Horse’s Mouth Podcast Novices’ Chase.
The six-year-old was a promising sort over hurdles, and made a winning debut over fences at Newton Abbot five weeks ago.
Assistant trainer Joe Tizzard said: “We’ve had this race in mind for him since he won at Newton Abbot. It is quite good timing wise to go there and then the Henry VIII at Sandown.
“He travelled really well at Newton Abbot – and barring his mistake at the last, he jumped like a stag.
“He could be a very exciting novice chaser this season, which we hoped he would be, and he appears to have strengthened up again.”
A strong line-up includes the classy Fusil Raffles, who has won both his starts over fences for Nicky Henderson – including at this track last month.
The Nicholls stable is represented by fencing debutant Quel Destin, a prolific winner over hurdles and fresh from a recent run on the Flat.
“He won nicely on the Flat at Bath a month ago, which was an ideal warm-up for his chasing debut in this,” Nicholls told Betfair.
“We know Quel Destin likes Cheltenham, and his schooling over fences has been good at home in recent weeks.
“Although he has won eight times at the minimum trip, I always think in the back of my mind that he really wants two and a half miles – as long as he jumps well then two miles should be fine.
“He’s tough, reliable and the top rated of these over hurdles, so I’m quite upbeat about his chances.”
Dr Richard Newland is hoping Le Patriote can cope with the step up in grade.
The eight-year-old got off the mark over fences at Market Rasen four weeks ago, on his first start since the Champion Hurdle in March.
“He’s trained well and he’s in good form,” said the Worcester trainer.
“We were thrilled with his win at Market Rasen, and he deserves his tilt in this company.
“It looks a competitive little race. Every one looks to have a bit of a chance on paper, and we’re probably one of the outsiders.
“We’ve got it all to prove – but we go there in good form, so I’m hoping for a big show.
“If he’s quite not up to it he’ll have had a bit of experience of the course, and then we can maybe go back for the handicap at the Festival, something like that.
“We’ll see how he copes with those fences and how he manages them and if he is up to this grade or is he a notch below?”
Philip Hobbs’ Gumball and Henry de Bromhead’s Irish challenger Zarkareva complete a fascinating line-up.