Anthony Honeyball hopes the addition of cheekpieces and a tongue tie can help Jepeck bounce back to form and secure back-to-back victories in the Unibet Veterans’ Handicap Chase at Sandown.
The 12-year-old will bid to open his account for the season by repeating his success of 12 months ago in the three-mile final of the veterans’ series.
After pulling up over course and distance in November on his return to action, Jepeck suffered the same result on his most recent outing in last month’s Welsh National Trial at Chepstow.
Honeyball said: “He seems in good form at home – we’ve had this race in mind since he qualified at Carlisle at the end of last season and we have gone through similar paces to end up in the final.
“Last season he was coming into the race off some pretty good efforts over hurdles and his confidence was sky high.
“His two runs this season have been nothing to get excited about, but hopefully the addition of cheekpieces and a tongue tie can spark him up.
“He is back down to the same mark as last year’s race, but I think it is a tougher race this year. There are no signs at home to suggest why he won’t run well.”
Crosspark has not won since landing the 2019 Eider Chase at Newcastle and has finished second in his three starts so far this season.
Caroline Bailey, trainer, said: “Crosspark is fit and well and he goes there in good form from his last run at the track.
“He has gone up 6lb since the start of the season as he is running so well, but you can’t ignore that (the rise) is frustrating when they aren’t winning.
“The handicapper thinks he is still improving from 10 to 11, but whether he has too much weight, only time will tell.
“He won’t particularly like it if it becomes sticky, but it was pretty horrible last time and he ran well and we know he stays well.”
Lucy Wadham expects recent Cheltenham runner-up Potters Legend to have no problems handling the testing conditions.
She said: “I thought we were going to get there at Cheltenham, but both he and third probably helped the winner pick up. However, he ran on well to the line.
“This race has been in the back of our mind, but he would have probably run at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day, so it’s plan B.
“He is probably as good now as he has ever been as he has just matured as a chaser. He is a very strong horse, so he pretty much handles any ground.”
Paul Nicholls believes a day out hunting has sharpened up Sametegal, who will be seeking a first success since the 2016 Greatwood Gold Cup at Newbury.
“This veterans’ race has been the target for Sametegal ever since he finished sixth in the Grand Sefton Chase over the National fences at Aintree,” said Nicholls in his Betfair column.
“He is so consistent he doesn’t get much help from the handicapper and he ran as well as ever when a close third behind Step Back at Sandown over three miles early in November.
“Sametegal loved his day out with the Blackmore and Sparkford Hunt the other day. I expect him to run his usual honest race, though he does find it hard to win.”
Sir Ivan has run well in both starts over two and a half miles this season, however trainer Harry Fry expects the 11-year-old to be equally effective stepped back up in trip.
Fry said: “He’s been running consistently well this season, which has always been his downfall really because he never moves much in the handicap.
“He ran his best race over fences in a long time the last day at Leicester.
“Obviously this is a step back up in trip, but he’s got form over the distance and takes his chance.”