Crack French trainer Guillaume Macaire, who rarely has runners in Britain, sends two horses to Wetherby today and, provided the course passes a precautionary inspection at 8.30am, both appear to have outstanding chances.
Vizir d’Estruval is unbeaten in two races on the other side of the Channel and is a horse who is proven on testing ground.
He runs in the jct600.co.uk Introductory Juvenile Hurdle and looks sure to go well, despite being opposed by some potentially useful rivals, including Mashaari, Hidden Justice, Three Kingdoms and Welsh Bard.
James Reveley, who has ridden a lot for Macaire – former trainer of Long Run – in France, has been booked for the ride on Vizir d’Estruval and he will also be aboard United Park in the wetherbyracing.co.uk Novices’ Chase.
The four-year-old has struck form with a vengeance lately, winning his last two races. He looks sure to take plenty of beating and is awarded the nap vote.
The Castleford Chase is the feature race on the card and Wetherby regulars are likely to be drawn towards course specialist Lease Lend, trained by Tim Easterby.
Although he has yet to get into the winners’ enclosure this season, after missing the whole of last term, Lease Lend has run some good races in defeat. With Dougie Costello on board, he is expected to go well in a race where three of the five runners share top weight of 11st 12lb.
Newmarket trainer John Ferguson sends Buthelezi to Wetherby to contest the Irish Experience Package – Saturday 2nd February Novices’ Hurdle.
The gelding, a high-rated horse on the Flat, made a very pleasing hurdles debut to win at Aintree. He could prove quite useful at this game.
The second day of Kempton’s principal Christmas meeting features the Grade 2 williamhill.com Desert Orchid Chase, named in honour of the ultra-popular chaser who enjoyed so many great days in his career, including at Kempton.
The vote goes to Wishfull Thinking, who, after an early blunder, came good in tremendous style at Cheltenham last time, winning by a wide margin. He is fancied to have the edge over the front-running Sanctuaire.
It could be a good day for Richard Johnson and Philip Hobbs, jockey and trainer of Wishfull Thinking.
They also have good prospects with Menorah in the Grade 2 William Hill Levy Peterborough Chase, a rescheduled race. A top-notch horse on his day, Menorah has not always convinced with his jumping of fences but, provided he puts in a clean round here, he should be involved in the thick of the action.
Simonsig, who made a winning debut over fences at Ascot last week, turns out again quickly.
Nicky Henderson’s gelding, a huge talent over hurdles, is widely tipped to scale similar heights as a chaser. It will be surprising if his colours are lowered.
Also worth noting are the potentially smart Irish Saint (12.25) and recent winner Rolling Aces (3.15).
12.40 Buthelezi, 1.10 Lucematic, 1.45 Vizir d’Estruval, 2.20 Lease Lend, 2.55 United Park (NAP), 3.25 Seymour Eric.
12.25 Irish Saint, 12.55 Simonsig, 1.30 One Lucky Lady, 2.05 Menorah, 2.40 Wishfull Thinking, 3.15 Rolling Aces, 3.45 Harry Trucker.
Today’s other meetings: Chepstow, Lingfield and Wolverhampton.
Tomorrow’s meetings: Catterick, Leicester, Lingfield and Wolverhampton.