Emma Lavelle: thinks Highland Lodge "goes there with a good chance"PICTURE: Robin Gibson
Lodge out to show star quality at Newbury
HIGHLAND LODGE, a 20-1 chance with Betfred for the RSA Chase in March, bids to enhance his Cheltenham Festival credentials on the opening day of the Hennessy meeting at Newbury.
An impressive winner at Towcester on his chase debut three weeks ago, Highland Lodge faces a stern test from five last-time out winners in the Grade 2 GPG Novices' Chase, won last year by Grands Crus.
Trainer Emma Lavelle said: "Three miles looked to be the right trip for him over fences at Towcester and all of his form has come on softer ground. Although it's competitive, he definitely goes there with a good chance."
One of the chief dangers to Highland Lodge appears to be Houblon Des Obeaux, who bids for a third win over fences and a second at Grade 2 level for trainer Venetia Williams.
An emphatic winner on chase debut at Worcester last month, Houblon Des Obeaux accounted for the Paul Nicholls-trained Poungach and Highland Lodge's well-regarded stablemate Court In Motion with a smooth success at Wincanton 19 days ago.
Williams said: "It took Poungach a while to get into gear at Wincanton, so I don't think we can take that form too literally. This looks like being his toughest test over fences but he's done everything well so far and I'm looking forward to another promising run from him."
Edgardo Sol faces five rivals as he bids to give Nicholls back-to-back wins in the day's feature race, the Sportingbet Intermediate Hurdle, better known as the Gerry Feilden.
No match for Cue Card over fences on his previous start, Edgardo Sol switches back to hurdles in the hope he can exploit a more lenient handicap mark.
Nicholls said: "He ran well over fences at Exeter but he's better handicapped over hurdles, so we thought we'd run him in this. He's a year older and stronger and we think he'll be fine on the soft ground."
At Thurles 2011 Grand National runner-up Oscar Time has his first run over fences since chasing home Ballabriggs at Aintree when he and Sam Waley-Cohen face five rivals including Berties Dream and Forpadydeplasterer in the Glen Chase
Uttoxeter Heavy, soft in places