De Sousa and Buick return for first time in 2018 as Flat season approaches
In a sure sign the start of the Flat turf season is imminent, champion jockey Silvestre de Sousa and Godolphin's William Buick take their first rides in Britain this year at Lingfield on Monday.
De Sousa – who was crowned champion for a second time last season – and Buick have not ridden in Britain since November, having spent the intervening period riding in the Middle East.
The champion jockey returns to action on the William Knight-trained Sea Shack in the 7f handicap (4.25), while Buick partners Sportswriter for Charlie Appleby in the 1m2f novice stakes (3.55).
De Sousa has already stated his intentions to bid for a third title, with bet365 making him the 4-9 favourite. Andrea Atzeni, who has switched to agent Tony Hind in an attempt to propel him to the championship, is second favourite at 7-1.
Nicholls seeks another all-weather victory with smart hurdler Cliffs Of Dover
Fresh from a final day festival double, Paul Nicholls chases all-weather success at Lingfield with Cliffs Of Dover (3.25), who bypassed Cheltenham because of the testing ground.
Prolific over hurdles last term, the five-year-old was a course-and-distance winner 12 days ago under the trainer's daughter Megan, who again takes the ride.
"He won nicely the other day and the ground's too soft for him to go jumping at the moment," said Nicholls, who won the Foxhunter for the second year running with Pacha Du Polder and also landed the Grand Annual with Le Prezien.
"He's gone up 7lb for that win, but he won quite nicely and Megan claims 5lb off him, so he'd go well again I'd say.
"Cheltenham would've been a waste of time for him as he wants good ground. I'm just really building up his fitness before we go back jumping towards the end of the season.
"Something like the Scottish Champion Hurdle at Ayr would suit him well, but he needs goodish ground, so this keeps his fitness up."
Dream team back
Gordon Elliott and Davy Russell, leading trainer and rider respectively at the Cheltenham Festival, team up again at Down Royal on Sunday with Mala Beach in the Daily Mirror Chase (4.30).
Mala Beach, who is entered for the BoyleSports Irish Grand National and the Randox Health Grand National, has raced only once since landing the Troytown Chase at Navan in November and was pulled up in the Irish Gold Cup at Leopardstown last month.
Elliott said yesterday: "Mala Beach is very ground dependent and it wasn't testing enough for him at Leopardstown. He's in good form and heavy ground this time will be perfect got him.
"He's well-treated by the race conditions, so we're hoping for a big run.
The Chris Jones-owned ten-year-old faces only three rivals in the 3m2f event – the Noel Meade-trained Bonnie Kate, who has been pulled up on her last two starts, Val De Ferbet, representing Andrew McNamara, and Patrick Griffin's Maggio.
Small field should suit Kopookris
Kopookris, winner of a handicap chase at Thurles in January and a close third at Naas on his most recent start, faces four rivals in the 2m4f rated novice chase (4.00) at Down Royal and trainer Liam Cusack reports the seven-year-old in "good shape " for the task.
Cusack said yesterday: "Kopookris came out of the Naas race well and the small field should suit him. He's won on heavy ground although he'd probably prefer it a bit better."
Denis O'Regan, who won on Kopookris at Thurles, is back on board the son of Kris Kin.
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