Alan King saddles last year’s winner Harambe and the ante-post favourite Edwardstone in Sunday’s Unibet Greatwood Hurdle at Cheltenham.
King enjoyed a fruitful summer on the Flat with three Royal Ascot winners, a success on Champions Day with Trueshan and the November Handicap through On To Victory.
One the same day as the latter he also won the Elite Hurdle at Wincanton with Sceau Royal, so there is no doubting his horses remain in excellent form.
“You need the right ammunition for this race, bur Harambe won it last year and, together with Edwardstone, we go back with two solid chances,” said King.
“Harambe had a run before he went there last year and though that has not been possible this time around, he has been moving very well and pleasing me at home.”
Harambe has not been seen since the Betfair Hurdle in February when he was brought down at the final flight when still in contention.
King told his website: “Harambe was brought down at the last at Newbury and was on the floor for a while. It has taken him a long time to recover, but he did his pre-training at AP’s (McCoy) and it is good to have him back in action here.”
Edwardstone was beaten a neck in a Grade Two on heavy ground at Haydock before a respectable sixth in the Supreme in March last season and looks the right type for the race, although ground conditions could become a concern.
“He is an exciting prospect with untapped potential and though he can be a bit free in his races, he is beautifully relaxed at the moment, which is very encouraging,” said King.
“He was a high-class novice last season and ran well in the Supreme at the Festival when our horses were not really firing. I hope the forecast rain does not materialise as he is more effective on better ground.
“Both horses schooled on Monday and we’ve done as much as we can with them at home but while both would make lovely chasers, this is a great race in which to start back and I am very happy with them.”
In contrast, top-weight Ballyandy would benefit from the forecast rain, according to his trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies.
“I thought he ran a cracker under top-weight at Ffos Las to split Sceau Royal and Buzz last time out and I’d love to run him in this, but he does want it a bit softer,” Twiston-Davies told William Hill.
Jamie Snowden registered one of the biggest winners of his career last weekend with Ga Law and chases another with Pisagh Pike.
“He’s a highly-progressive sort since we gave him a wind op in the summer and he’s won his two novice hurdles well,” said Snowden.
“He just got touched off in a Listed race at Market Rasen which arguably he perhaps should have gone on and won.
“He’s got a nice handicap mark so hopefully we can try to exploit in a big race like this.”
Thinking is massively unexposed for David Pipe, having his first run since being bought from France over 800 days ago.
“We’ve had him since he was a three-year-old,” said Pipe.
“His owner (Nick Shutts) has been very patient. He picked up a tendon injury. He was actually due to run last year when the lockdown happened.
“He’s got an engine. He’s rated 132 so he’s at the right end of the handicap but he wants soft ground.
“We like him and hopefully he can repay the owner’s patience.”
Dan Skelton’s Proschema is another lightly-raced type and jockey Harry Skelton is another who will be watching the skies.
“I’m looking forward to him and the drier the ground the better. It’s a bit of a wet forecast which could be a bit of a problem, but I’m sure we’ll take our chance,” he said on Racing TV.
“The better the ground the stronger his chance. He ran a nice race the last day at Wetherby and he’s come forward from that.”
Paul Nicholls’ Thyme White, who was impressive at Chepstow, and Tom Lacey’s Sebastopol are other fancied runners.