Sandy Thomson fires a twin assault in his bid for back-to-back victories in the Betfair Exchange Rehearsal Chase at Newcastle on Saturday.
The Berwickshire-based trainer saddled popular veteran Yorkhill to claim a surprise victory in the Listed contest 12 months ago and is this year represented by a pair of course and distance winners.
The market leader is The Ferry Master, who having rounded off last season by finishing fourth in the Scottish Grand National, made a promising return when third at Musselburgh earlier this month.
His stablemate Dingo Dollar filled the runner-up spot when favourite for the Scottish Grand National and is expected to improve from his comeback fourth at Kelso.
Thomson said: “It was a very competitive race that Dingo Dollar ran in at Kelso and it probably wasn’t an ideal preparation for The Ferry Master at Musselburgh, but it was the only place to go.
“We were delighted with both runs. Dingo Dollar is in great form, he’s run well in a couple of Ladbrokes Trophys in the past and he’s in on a nice mark.
“If you’re going to be realistic, you hope The Ferry Master is a progressive, young horse. Whether he quite stayed in the Scottish National, we’re not sure.
“I hope they’ll both run nice races on Saturday.”
The weights are headed by Ann Hamilton’s Nuts Well, who steps up to three miles for the first time after finishing fifth when defending his crown in the two-and-a-half-mile Old Roan Chase at Aintree.
Next on the list is the Harriet Graham-trained Aye Right, who blew away a few cobwebs when fifth behind Nuts Well at Kelso last month.
“Last year it was incredibly exciting to go to Newbury (finished second in Ladbrokes Trophy). We made a decision fairly early on that we won’t going there this year – it seems a very strong renewal of the race,” Graham told Sky Sports Racing.
“Newcastle is 45 minutes away, the Rehearsal Chase is also a competitive race and we decided to go local rather than go all the way to Newbury to take on the Irish.
“He so deserves to win a race. He’s come on immensely for that run (at Kelso) and we’ve also taken him to Carlisle for a racecourse gallop.
“He’s been working really well at home and schooled really well – it’s all systems go.”
Dan Skelton is keen on the chances of Spiritofthegames, who was only beaten seven lengths in the Paddy Power Gold Cup at Cheltenham a fortnight ago.
He said: “I’m starting to fancy him for this race. In the Paddy Power, he didn’t quite have the legs for two and a half miles.
“He’s a bit older, he’s been to all those two-and-a-half-mile dances and we’re now going to go to all the three-mile dances.
“Hopefully we can win one – he deserves to.
“I can see him going really well at Newcastle on decent ground.”