Karl Philippe bids to provide Fergal O’Brien with another big-race victory in the EBF Final at Sandown.
The Gloucestershire-based trainer is enjoying an excellent campaign, highlighted by the Grade Two triumphs of Hurricane Harvey, Silver Hallmark and Alaphilippe.
Before saddling likely Pertemps Final favourite Imperial Alcazar at next week’s Cheltenham Festival, O’Brien is first out to strike Grade Three gold on Saturday with Karl Philippe – who made it third time lucky over hurdles with a 10-length success at Exeter last month.
O’Brien said: “I hope he goes there with a good chance. He’s in good form.
“He was placed in his first two hurdles over two miles – and as soon as we stepped him up in trip and rode him a bit more forward, he proved the shorter trip was the problem.
“We’re looking forward to running him on Saturday and seeing how he gets on.
“It’s very competitive, but we’ll go there and take our chance.”
David Pipe saddles top-weight Martinhal, who beat Karl Philippe by half a length in January and followed up last time.
“He’s won his last two, and the step up in trip should suit,” said the Pond House trainer.
“Like a lot of these horses, all his form has been on softer ground.
“It’s difficult to win a race like this off top-weight, but we’re hoping he has an each-way chance.”
Nicky Henderson has two contenders Captain Morgs and Patroclus, while Colin Tizzard’s Striking A Pose and Sam Barton from Emma Lavelle’s yard also feature.
The Paul Nicholls-trained Rainyday Woman sets the standard in the first of two Listed races on the card – the British Stallion Studs EBF Mares’ Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race.
The daughter of Kayf Tara bolted up on her debut for the Ditcheat handler at Stratford in November, before following up in Listed company at Huntingdon the following month.
“She has done nothing but please since she joined us in the summer, winning stylishly at Stratford before following up in a Listed mares’ bumper at Huntingdon just before Christmas,” Nicholls told Betfair.
“Rainyday Woman has a 4lb penalty in a hot looking race, and any further rain at Sandown would be in her favour.”
Rainyday Woman is re-opposed by Kim Bailey’s Huntingdon runner-up Flirtatious Girl, while the dangers include Henderson’s Tweed Skirt.
Listed honours are also up for grabs in the Paddy’s Rewards Club Novices’ Handicap Chase – a race which has been switched to Sandown from the Cheltenham Festival.
High Up In The Air has won his last five races for Gary Moore, who said: “This is a massive jump up in class.
“He just needed that first run over fences at the start of the season, while he loves soft ground and was well handicapped.
“He is a very good jumper, and that has helped him. He has won here before, but that was over shorter, and I think the extra few furlongs will suit him.”
Evan Williams is looking forward to saddling Annsam, who was slapped with a 12lb rise for a 42-length win at Ludlow in December.
“He’s a raw horse. The handicapper absolutely hoofed him up for winning a bad race last time, (but) I’d be pretty keen to give it a crack,” said the Welsh trainer.
“He went up 12lb for winning what in effect was a ‘nothing’ race, having a school round.
“The handicapper is right 99 per cent of the time, so I hope he is right.
“Annsam is a nice horse, (but) he’s a raw horse.”