There will be plenty of focus on Huntingdon on Thursday, where high-class hurdler Starluck makes his chase debut ahead of a possible tilt at the Arkle next month.
Alan Fleming’s grey isn’t the biggest, however, so it will be fascinating to see how he fares over the larger obstacles under Tony McCoy.
The Sidney Banks Memorial Novices’ Hurdle has gone the way of some classy animals down the years, with French Holly successful in ’98 and, more recently, the likes of Refinement (’06) and Time For Rupert (’09) have landed the 2m4f contest.
Though he has to concede 8lbs to his main market rivals Minella Class (3:35) is fancied to add his name to the roll of honour this afternoon for Nicky Henderson and Barry Geraghty.
The six-year-old Irish bumper winner made it two from two for current connections in the Grade 1 Tolworth Hurdle last time and the son of Oscar is bred to improve considerably for this step up in distance.
Up at Ayr Rival D’Estruval (3:25) is fancied to get off the mark at the third time of asking over timber, assuming the meeting gets to go-ahead after a 7am inspection.
Pauline Robson’s six-year-old, who finished fifth to Problema Tic in a bumper at Aintree in May, ran a blinder on his hurdles debut at Carlisle in October under similar conditions to today.
The son of Khalkevi then finished a well-beaten third when favourite at Catterick, but that was an above-average contest for the track and the ground was much quicker.
Back on softer ground and with the stable in good form (a winner and two seconds from Robson’s last four runners) he looks well worth another chance.
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Last year’s selections included:
Hurricane Fly: 3/1 winner of the G1 Rabobank Champion Hurdle
Copper Bleu: 12/1 winner of the Jewson at Cheltenham
Great Endeavour: 18/1 winner of the Festival Plate
Tranguil Sea: 11/2 winner of the Paddy Power Gold Cup
Sizing Europe: 6/1 winner of the Arkle
Weapon’s Amnesty: 10/1 winner of the RSA Chase