By Racinguk.com staff
Alan King's high-class hurdler has won three of his four starts over fences this season, most recently dominating his rivals in the Grade One Henry VIII Novices' Chase at Sandown.
Back at Grade Two level, he carries a penalty and concedes weight all round, but will nevertheless be a hot favourite to continue his winning run on the way to a potential tilt at the Arkle Trophy, for which he is a best-priced 6-1 second favourite.
King said on his website: "This race has long been the plan as he does not enjoy bottomless ground, so Doncaster was always going to suit him. Everything has gone smoothly since his impressive Grade 1 triumph at Sandown in December, when his jumping was as slick as ever.
“He is not the biggest, but he loves jumping and has been fast and accurate over his obstacles since the first day we schooled him at home.”
With regular rider Daryl Jacob heading for Cheltenham on Saturday, King's stable jockey Wayne Hutchinson partners Sceau Royal on the track for only the second time.
"Wayne schooled him on Thursday and knows the horse perfectly well," the Barbury Castle handler added.
Sceau Royal is taken on by the Paul Nicholls-trained Adrien Du Pont, Charlie Pogson's Ballycamp and Shantou Rock from Dan Skelton's yard.
The Lightning is one of three Grade Two prizes on offer on Town Moor, and King saddles the ultra-consistent Dusky Legend in the olbg.com Yorkshire Rose Mares' Hurdle.
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The eight-year-old has been placed at the last two Cheltenham Festivals and reverts to timber after falling over fences at Newbury last month.
"She's in good order and we just want to get the run in to put her right for the Mares' Hurdle at Cheltenham," the trainer added. "We've freshened her up since her last run and we're very happy with her.
"She's always been beaten by a good one. Hopefully she'll run well again."
Dusky Legend faces five opponents including Richard Hobson's Dame Rose, Peter Atkinson's Irish Roe and the prolific Maria's Benefit, who completed a four-timer for Stuart Edmunds in a Listed contest at Taunton in late December.
Edmunds said: "We're very happy with her and hopefully she goes there with a big chance.
"She's the top-rated mare in the race and she's entitled to be there. I hope the bubble doesn't burst."
It could be a big day for Edmunds, with the Buckinghamshire-based trainer sending the hat-trick-seeking Classic Ben into battle in the Albert Bartlett River Don Novices' Hurdle.
He added: "It's a step up, but where do you go with a double penalty? You've got to give it a go. I think the step up in trip will probably bring out improvement in him."
Eight runners have been declared for the extended three-mile contest, with Nicky Henderson's Indian Hawk, the Kim Bailey-trained Station Master and Samuel Jackson also in contention.
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Samuel Jackson has won both his races under Rules, the first at 100-1, for fledgling trainer Richard Mitford-Slade.
He proved that was no fluke by following up from a decent rival at Bangor earlier this month and fully warrants a crack at Grade Two company.
Mitford-Slade said: "I think he's improving all the time. He's a young horse and I think he will be able to hold his own.
"The ground could go a bit quicker than what he has been on, but he has run on good ground in point-to-points so I think he handles most things.
"If everything goes to plan and he is going to go for the Albert Bartlett, it gives him a nice break ahead of that race.
"He is learning and we are learning. We are totally living the dream."
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