Tenor out to hit the high notes in Scotland
A record-equalling low turnout of just five runners go to post for the featured Listed totepooliveinfo.com Premier Chase (4.00) at the Scottish track headed by the smart Tenor Nivernais.
Not many ten-year-olds improve 10lb in one go, but that is what Venetia Williams' smart type was raised for scoring by no less than 30 lengths in the Listed Swinley Chase at Ascot last time.
The in-form Williams said: "This is the first time he's had a look-in in a race of this type. The handicapper feels that this is within his capabilities so we look forward to seeing him run up there."
Whoever wins it has a hard act to follow as the £33,000 contest was won by the ill-fated Many Clouds a year ago and Paul Nicholls provides the main opposition in the shape of Grand National hope Le Mercurey.
Although he is rated 11lb lower than his main rival, Le Mercurey gave Gold Cup contender Native River something to think about before finishing an honourable second to that opponent in the Denman Chase at Newbury last time.
Nicholls said: "Small fields do tend to suit Le Mercurey in these conditions races. Come the National we would ride him accordingly and take our time. In the meantime I like supporting races like this one and it's timing is ideal on the way to Aintree."
Brian Hughes has ridden the winner of this in two of the past three years with Maggio (2014) and Runswick Royale (2015) and is back for more with Seldom Inn, who was going well before falling at Newcastle last time.
Sandy Thomson, trainer of Seldom Inn said: "We're not sure we can beat the top two but he has won around Kelso before and is fresh from a break."
The field is completed by Bernardelli and outsider Lowanbehold. Nicky Richards, trainer of the Bernardelli, commented: "He's been having to carry top weight in handicaps so this will be better, but all roads lead to the final of the Challenger series at Haydock for him."
Paul Nicholls is also represented in the feature hurdle on the card, the £36,000 Grade 2 totescoop6 Premier Kelso Novice Hurdle (3.25), which he and jockey Sam Twiston-Davies won a year ago with Le Prezien.
This year they field Capitaine, who may have run too freely at Kempton last week but had previously chased home the classy Finian's Oscar at Sandown.
Nicholls said: "It's a quick run back but we learned last week he isn't going to Cheltenham. Where else do we go with him? He appears to be fine at home and it's a good prize to try to win."
Noel Fehily is out to break his duck at the track on Harry Fry's Chalonnial, who may also have run too free last time, whilst the three northern runners are certainly not out of it, most notably the George Charlton-trained Fairlee Grey.
Charlton said: "We think he's a bit of a tool as he won by 24 lengths at Ayr last time and it could have been more. We're expecting a good run."
Anthea Morshead, clerk of the course at the track, is not surprised by the turnouts. She said: "It's great to see Paul Nicholls supporting us again and we've also seen Dan Skelton up here regularly this year. More locally, Nicky Richards has been a staunch supporter and the main races are, as usual, about quality rather than quantity."