Can Squouateur make it third time lucky and finally reward punters' faith?
Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup Amateur Riders' Handicap Chase | 3m2f, 5yo+ | RUK
Here we go again. Squouateur sits at the top of the market for a race at the Cheltenham Festival for the third year running, but can he make it third time lucky?
He was supported all the way into 9-4 favourite for the Martin Pipe in 2016 but could finish only seventh to Ibis Du Rheu. He was 5-1 market leader for this race last year but got rid of Jamie Codd three out when travelling ominously well. Who knows what would have happened had he stood up. He's that sort of horse.
Squouateur has not enjoyed the best of luck and punters' patience is wearing thin but all will be forgiven if he can belatedly open his account at the tenth time of asking over fences.
Trainer Gordon Elliott said: "He was unlucky in the race last year when he was going well until blundering and unseating the rider. He's in very good form and we're hoping for better luck."
Is compensation coming for Pendra?
Pendra hit a low of 1.17 on the in-running exchanges in this race last year before succumbing to a renewed rally from Domesday Book.
It was a brave effort from a horse who has run at four of the last five festivals. He has not been seen since that agonising defeat, but top amateur Derek O'Connor is back on board and it is always foolish to underestimate him.
Trainer Charlie Longsdon said: "Pendra has become a festival regular and has a similar chance on paper to last year when he was just touched off.
"It's first time out again, but this time it was the plan and he's enjoyed a trouble-free prep. Pendra is Pendra and he has a lot of weight to carry in the ground, but fingers crossed it might be his turn."
Will Dini deliver for king Kelly?
Pat Kelly might have a small string but the trainer of Wednesday’s RSA winner Presenting Percy certainly knows how to get one ready for the middle of March and the 2016 Pertemps Final winner Mall Dini returns to try to secure a second festival triumph.
Kelly has shrewdly snapped up the services of top amateur Patrick Mullins, who won't lack for confidence having guided Rathvinden to glory in the National Hunt Chase on Tuesday.
Mullins said: "I'm really looking forward to riding Mall Dini and he's a great ride to get. He has course-winning form, which is a big bonus here."
What they say
Nigel Twiston-Davies, trainer of Double Ross, Tintern Theatre and Arctic Gold
Double Ross is a great old favourite. I'm not saying they're going to win but all three have chances.
Warren Greatrex, trainer of Missed Approach
He ran very well in the four-miler last year and has been running well this season. He’s had a soft palate operation since Musselburgh, should like the ground and should have an each-way chance.
Nicky Henderson, trainer of Sugar Baron
He wouldn't want the ground to be very bad, although it will keep things slow, which is what he wants. If they go off too fast he can get himself into a position from which he cannot get out. It's annoying as he often flies home from a hopeless position. I shall be running along the home straight, moving the winning post.
Paul Nicholls, trainer of Braquer D'Or and Captain Buck's
Braquer D'Or has had a break after a busy time in the autumn and has come back fresh and well. He'd like better ground but is running well and deserves to take his chance. Captain Buck's needs to improve on what he's done.
Neil Mulholland, trainer of The Young Master
He’s had a soft palate operation since his last run and we’re trying to get his form back. Since the operation he’s been in good form at home and is well handicapped if he can rediscover his form. We’d be very pleased if he's placed.
Henry de Bromhead, trainer of Heron Heights
He's been a bit disappointing but has some decent form when he's at his best.
Richard Newland, trainer of Band Of Blood
He's been in terrific form. He had a tendon injury but has come back to himself and seems in great shape. I'd be hoping for a big run.
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