Brave Eagle looks capable of defying top weight to land the spoils in the feature race at Uttoxeter on Sunday, the Listed 3m 2f Summer Cup (16:05).
This Nicky Henderson trained seven-year-old, a 6/1 shot with Betfred, is a progressive sort who had a tremendous strike rate having won eight of his 13 starts.
The son of four-time Ascot Gold Cup winner Yates has landed three of his four starts over the larger obstacles and comes into the contest on the back of an impressive success over 2m 4f at Haydock.
Brave Eagle powered home on the run-in to win going away by 2 1/2 lengths from Huntsmans Close, to whom he was conceding 5lb.
Given that the runner-up had previously run well at the Cheltenham Festival when ninth of 20 to A Plus Tard in the Close Brothers Novices’ Handicap Chase, it was a fine effort which suggested Brave Eagle needed keeping firmly onside.
Not surprisingly the assessor has had his say and hit Brave Eagle with an 8lb rise in the weights for that taking success.
A revised rating of 152 is a career-high for this Robert Kirkland owned gelding, but it was a career-best performance and Brave Eagle has bags of untapped potential as a chaser.
The step up in trip also looks sure to suit. Another plus is Brave Eagle hails from a yard operating at a strike rate of just under 45 per cent in the last 14 days at the time of writing.
Shouldering top weight of 11st 12lb and giving 5lb and upwards all-round is going to be no easy task for Brave Eagle, but he is the class act in the line-up and thus taken to prove up to the task en route to bigger and better things.
Van Gogh Du Granit the pick of Pipe duo
Legendary trainer Martin Pipe landed back-to-back runnings of the Summer Cup in 2001 and 2002. His son David saddles two interesting contenders in the shape of Van Gogh Du Granit and You Say What.
Preference is for the former who comes into the race on the back of a string of solid efforts.
After bolting up by 13 lengths in a handicap chase at Market Rasen off a mark of 128, this 10-year-old ran very well when chasing home Minella Daddy at Aintree off 7lb higher.
Van Gogh Du Granit then went down all guns blazing in the Perth Gold Cup, finishing and failing by just a short-head to overhaul the ultra-game Inidan Temple.
He has since run well to finish a close third in a handicap hurdle at Ffos Las and now reverts to the larger obstacles off a mark of 140 – just 3lb higher than when running so well at Perth.
The son of Saddler Maker should be up to winning races off his current rating and this is traditionally a strongly run affair, which will stui Van Gogh Du Granit’s racing style.
David Noonan also gets a good tune out of him and underfoot conditions hold no fears.
Everything looks in place for a big run and, at 11/1 with Ladbrokes, Van Gogh Du Granit looks a solid each-way contender.
Blairs Cove another with claims in Summer Cup
Dan Skelton saddled Virgilio to land the spoils 12 months ago and looks to have another leading contender this time around in Blairs Cove.
This seven-year-old came good at the third attempt over the larger obstacles when staying on strongly and accounting for Royal Supreme by 3 3/4 lengths at Warwick off a mark of 113.
Blairs Cove then won a handicap hurdle at Warwick easing down by a similar margin, before running a solid effort in defeat last time out when runner-up in a handicap chase at Stratford.
The son of Presenting made a couple of costly errors in the latter and got a bad bump at the 10th fence.
Given how the race panned out, it was to his credit that he stuck to the task well to go down by just 2 1/2 lengths to Western Miller, who has since gone on to follow-up in good style at Southwell when scoring by 13 lengths.
It makes a 4lb rise in the weights for Blairs Cove look more than fair and a revised chase rating of 127 looks exploitable – especially as he was rated as high as 131 over hurdles.
Off a featherweight of just 10st 1lb, Blairs Cove looks to have the perfect profile for this valuable prize at odds of 16/1 with Bethard. A bold bid under Bridget Andrews is thus on the cards.
Regal Encore appeals each-way
Of those at bigger odds, the JP McManus owned Regal Encore looks weighted to go well on the pick of his form.
This Anthony Honeyball trained 11-year-old was a smart bumper performer who finished a seven-length second in the Grade 1 at the 2013 Cheltenham Festival.
He has been successful twice in Listed handicap chases over 3m at Ascot, tasting Silver Cup success in December 2016 and the Keltbray Swinley in February of last year.
Regal Encore travelled well throughout in the latter and only had to be driven out to readily beat Minella Daddy by 1 1/2 lengths off a mark of 150.
He is now able to race in this off 3lb lower having run really well at last month’s Punchestown Festival when second of 17 to Cloudy Morning over a marathon 3m 7f.
Regal Encore took up the running travelling strongly two from home, but made a bad mistake at that obstacle. He was unable to recover and weakened to be beaten 18 lengths.
The drop back in trip looks sure to suit, while Regal Encore has his ideal ground and the services of Johnny Burke in the saddle.
So, at 14/1 with William Hill, he has more going for him than his odds would suggest and thus features as another each-way and completes this Summer Cup preview.