Classy Shantou Flyer out to cement Cheltenham credentials at Taunton
Shantou Flyer, a neck runner-up to Coo Star Sivola in last year's Ultima Handicap Chase at the Cheltenham Festival, attempts to get off to a winning start in the first hunter chase of the season at Taunton (3.25).
The nine-year-old gelding, who was bought by amateur David Maxwell, won the Grade 2 Florida Pearl Novice Chase in November 2015 and is an exciting recruit to the hunter chase ranks.
Trainer Richard Hobson confirmed the son of Shantou's long-term aims were the Foxhunter at the festival and its equivalent at Aintree.
"He's in good order and is ready to run. The long-term aim is the Foxhunter," Hobson said.
"David Maxwell has bought him and you would like to think he'll progress with every run this season and peak for the Foxhunter."
Shantou Flyer, who finished placed in three Grade 3 handicaps at Cheltenham last season, is the general 7-1 favourite for the Foxhunter.
He faces seven rivals in Taunton's 2m7f hunter chase, including Boher Call and Newsworthy.
Fox to make appeal?
Fox Appeal is another old favourite set to run at Taunton and bids to win for the first time since April 2017 in the 2m7f handicap chase (2.20).
Trainer Emma Lavelle, who had a Grade 1 breakthrough with Paisley Park in the Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot last month, is hopeful of a good performance from the 12-year-old gelding, who has won twice from three starts at the Somerset track.
"He's an absolute star; he's been such a great servant to us," Lavelle said. "He probably should have won at Ludlow, but has his trademark of taking out one fence on the way round and I'm afraid he did that. Taunton suits him, and a small field too, so I hope he runs well."
The Hawk Inn Syndicate-owned gelding faces three rivals, including Romain De Senam, last seen pulling up in the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup at Cheltenham, and the Evan William-trained Still Believing.
Knight to remember for Watson?
Corinthia Knight has been a prolific winner on the all-weather for trainer Archie Watson and the four-year-old returns for a crack at Kempton's feature race, the 6f conditions stakes (6.15).
Among the gelding's opponents are the Jeremy Noseda-trained Cenotaph, formerly a Ballydoyle inmate, and course-and-distance winner Gulliver, last seen finishing second to Kachy at Wolverhampton on Boxing Day.
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