By Racinguk.com staff
Top-class hurdler L'Ami Serge reverts to fences for the first time in over a year in the Sky Bet Chase at Doncaster on Saturday.
Nicky Henderson's charge claimed French Champion Hurdle glory at Auteuil last June and has continued in fine form this winter, filling the runner-up spot in the Coral Hurdle and the Long Walk at Ascot.
He has not tackled the larger obstacles since being beaten by Le Prezien in a graduation chase at Exeter in December 2016, but is a hot favourite for what is his handicap debut over fences.
Anthony Bromley, racing manager for owners Simon Munir and Isaac Souede, said: "The ground is soft, but it's not as soft as it is at other tracks. As they're racing on Friday it will be the second day they've raced on it and it might be a bit cut up, but we'll see.
"He's in good form and we feel it's the right race for him. The track is probably more suitable for him than Cheltenham. It's an open handicap and we'll see how he gets on."
With the owners' retained rider Daryl Jacob heading for Cheltenham to team up with Gold Cup contender Bristol De Mai in the Cotswold Chase, among others, connections have called upon Davy Russell to partner L'Ami Serge.
Carrying the hopes of the home county of Yorkshire is the Sue Smith-trained Wakanda.
The nine-year-old was beaten just a head by Get On The Yager in the Rowland Meyrick Chase at Wetherby on Boxing Day, which was his best effort in a while.
Smith said: "He ran very well at Wetherby and seems in really good form. He's run well at Doncaster before and the trip and hopefully the ground won't be a problem.
"Wetherby was a big step in the right direction and let's hope he takes another one. If he runs up to his best he should run a big race."
Alan King, who has won the prestigious contest for the last two years with Ziga Boy, relies upon Label Des Obeaux, who was last seen pulling up in the Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury.
”He ran no race whatsoever in the Ladbroke Trophy at Newbury, and we knew our fate after the first fence," said the Barbury Castle handler on his website.
"He is a horse who takes a bit of knowing so having Wayne back on board will be a plus, and we have freshened him up these past six weeks in the hope that we can get him back on track.”
Thumb Stone Blues is a maiden after three starts over fences, but has been placed on each occasion, most recently finishing second at Catterick in November.
Kim Bailey's charge won at Doncaster over hurdles last March.
Bailey said: "He's been in good form since Catterick. We've been waiting for some nice ground and the only place you are going to get anything remotely respectable at this time of year is probably Doncaster.
"He has run well this season, but it has been slightly frustrating because he has been beaten.
"He is in a bit of a difficult situation in that he is not one thing or the other - he is not good enough to win a decent novice chase and might find it hard to win a really nice handicap."
The Neil Mulholland-trained Pilgrims Bay was runner-up in a similar race at Kempton over Christmas and has a nice racing weight.
"I'm hoping he'll run well. He's been running well in these type of races all season and has 10st 4lb on his back," said Mulholland. "He's in good form and I think the track and ground will be fine for him, so fingers crossed."
Flying Angel struck at Grade One level in the Manifesto Novices' Chase at Aintree last spring and was last seen finishing third behind Definitly Red and Cloudy Dream in a Grade Two at Aintree.
Trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies said: "He's a Grade One winner running off 152. I don't think he's been running below form, he's been knocking away and I've been pleased with him.
"Let's hope he's got a decent chance. We were hoping for some decent ground, but I'm not too sure it will be."
Select any odd to add a bet