Philip Hobbs feels Fairoak Lad could be the pick of his trio in the bet365 Gold Cup at Sandown tomorrow.
The Minehead trainer also saddles past winners Monkerhostin (2008) and Lacdoudal (2006), but believes the youngest member of his team might be the one to give him a third victory in the prestigious handicap chase on the final day of the jumps season.
“It’s a big call for Monkerhostin with top weight at 13 years of age but he seems in good form, so hopefully he’ll run well,” said Hobbs.
“He has a good claimer on board and the ground will be fine for him, so we’ll see what happens.
“Lacdoudal also likes Sandown and both horses have won this race before.
“Lacdoudal obviously ran well at Cheltenham last time, so hopefully he’d have an each-way squeak.
“Fairoak Lad is progressive and will be suited well by the trip, which is a big positive, so hopefully he has a strong each-way chance.
“I suppose before the race it would look as though Fairoak Lad has the best chance of the three.”
David Pipe also has three runners, headed by The Package, who he hopes will not show any ill-effects from the Grand National in which he got as far as the 19th fence.
“He seems to come out of the race fine. He shouldn’t mind the ground or the trip,” said the Nicholashayne trainer.
“It just depends as sometimes they don’t perform next time after the National. That’s going to be in the back of your mind but he seems well and it looks an ideal race for him.”
Pipe feels Tamarinbleu could be suited by the extra distance.
“He ran a cracker at Doncaster when second to Chief Dan George and he’ll love the ground,” he went on.
“We’re stepping up into unknown territory over three miles five, but the way he races now suggests he may want the trip and he’s in there with a chance.”
Piraya completed the course in the National in 13th of the 14th finishers and will wear a visor for the first time.
“He got round in the National and ran well, he won’t mind the ground,” he added.
“We’re putting a visor on him just to help him travel a bit better in the race and to help his jockey Johnny Farrelly as well. We’ll see.”
Charlie Mann expects Air Force One to bounce back after an uncharacteristic fall last time at Down Royal.
“He’s in very good form and very fresh. He’s had a very light season and we’ve had this race in mind for a while,” said the Upper Lambourn trainer.
“He’s a Grade One winner, he’s well-handicapped and I’m hoping he’ll run well tomorrow.
“He had a silly fall last time out and he’s a good jumper normally. On his best form he’d have a good chance.
“The trip should be fine. He was second in the Hennessy over three and a quarter miles. He likes a right-handed track too and Graham Lee gets on well with him.”
Owner Andy Stewart plans to arrive back from Barbados in time to see his three runners go for Gold.
His colours have yet to be carried to victory in this race but My Will and Hoo La Baloo, who have both been placed in recent years, lead his assault.
They are both trained by Paul Nicholls, while Stewart will also be represented by Martys Mission after the Richard Rowe-trained novice gave him another string to his bow after just making the cut in the maximum 20-strong field.
“Hoo La Baloo was favourite one year and My Will was third in this once under top weight, but he’s not top weight this time with Monkerhostin going,” said Stewart.
“This will be his last race, he’s got 11st 6lb and we’ll look to go hunter chasing with him.
“He’s 10 years old now. He won’t go for another National. He had his chance last year and came third and fell this time.
“Hoo La Baloo hasn’t had a race for a long time.
“Ruby (Walsh) rode him last time and was going to ride him in the Bet365 but he had that fall from Celestial Halo at Liverpool, so that’s why we put young Ian Popham claiming 5lb on him.”
Emma Lavelle is keen on the chances of Kilcrea Castle, who she believes will be suited by the forecast quick ground.
The ex-Irish-trained eight-year-old was unsuited by the testing conditions when well-beaten in the Racing Post Chase at Kempton in February on his debut for the Andover handler.
“He seems really well so it’s fingers crossed we get there with no issues and he’ll go and run a good race,” said Lavelle.
“The ground was a bit too soft for him at Kempton and everything happened very quickly. I think that was the issue there.
“He seems in very good order now and the ground being too soft is definitely not going to be a concern.
“It’s a step up in trip and I think he should run a big race.”