Duke Of Navan hoping to prove king in the finale
There's always pressure when a racehorse defends an unbeaten record and Fergal O'Brien is resigned to Cap Soleil being beaten one day.
But the Ladbrokes Mares' Novices' Hurdle (12.10) offers another excellent opportunity for his recent good course-and-distance winner, who is bidding to stretch her winning streak to five.
O'Brien, who could hardly be in better form, said: "They all get beaten one day, but Cap Soleil is a very nice mare and it would be nice to think she might go to the top.
"She was good at Newbury last month, and the ground should be even nicer for her this time. Paddy [Brennan] schooled her the other day and she's in great form. We're all looking forward to this."
Mares' novice hurdles might not excite every punter, and each-way terms are limited by the size of the field, but all five of Cap Soleil's opponents are winners already this season and they are all still open to improvement.
Hexham winner Dame Rose was only third behind Cap Soleil last time after setting a strong pace, but Richard Hobson is not without hope of turning the tables.
He said: "She's in great order and she has a 3lb pull. The ground will be a bit softer, which certainly won't hurt as Dame Rose stays so well, and we have a fantastic jockey booked in Richard Johnson."
Will Frost star in a winter's Tale?
O Maonlai bids to repeat last year's win in the Sir Peter O'Sullevan Memorial Handicap Chase (1.20), and despite racing from a 6lb higher mark, he meets five-length runner-up Warriors Tale on 3lb better terms, although the difference is mitigated by Bryony Frost's claim on Warriors Tale.
Once again O Maonlai comes here without a run under his belt, but that should be taken as a positive. Trainer Tom George said: "He likes the track and won the race last year. We kept him back for the race and hope he can run the same as he did last year."
Warriors Tale is not the only runner saddled by Paul Nicholls, who said: "Bouvreuil ran some solid races last season and I've been looking to step him up in trip. He needs to improve on his showing at Aintree.
"Warriors Tale loves the track and gives his best running at Newbury. He unseated Sean [Bowen] halfway last time so we don't know where he would have finished. Bryony's 5lb claim will be handy."
Duke out to usurp King
Nicky Richards is a rare visitor to Newbury nowadays and Duke Of Navan will be only his third runner at the track in five seasons.
The nine-year-old renews rivalry with Baby King in the Ladbrokes Handicap Chase (3.35), the competitive two-miler which brings down the curtain on what promises to be an outstanding afternoon of sport.
The pair met at Aintree last month, where Duke Of Navan made much of the running but was beaten a length and a half into third by the Tom George-trained winner. He is 3lb better off here and it is unlikely to be a disadvantage having Davy Russell back in the saddle for the first time in five years.
Richards said: "It's hopefully a good opportunity for Duke Of Navan. He ran a smashing race at Aintree, where the lad [Ryan Day] gave him a very good ride, and he probably just needed that run.
"He's a big horse, and he just likes it on the easy side of good, so conditions should be fine. We certainly won't find better ground for him at this time of year."
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