Nigel Twiston-Davies is hopeful he can land a Newton Abbot double, as he sends stable stars Ballyoptic and Flying Angel to Devon for their seasonal bows.
Ballyoptic landed Grade One honours at Aintree only 18 months ago, and enjoyed a good campaign over hurdles last season where he finished second in Newbury’s Long Distance Hurdle.
He looked well on course to strike in Ascot’s Long Walk Hurdle before falling on the penultimate obstacle, but failed to build on his encouraging start to the season.
At Cheltenham he finished fourth in the Stayers’ Hurdle, and fifth to Yanworth in the Liverpool Hurdle.
“Ballyoptic heads the weights for the handicap hurdle from a mark of 157,” Twiston-Davies told his Facebook page.
“He is still down from a peak of 162, which he was a close up 4th of 15 in the G2 Cleve Hurdle at Cheltenham in January.
“That’s good form and he must have a very good chance under today’s conditions.
“Zac Baker rides and takes off what could be a valuable 5lbs.
He must overcome key rivals Paul Nicholls’ improving Winningtry and Harry Fry’s Whataknight.
Flying Angel won the Manifesto Novices' Chase a length ahead of Arkle second Cloudy Dream
Flying Angel scored at the top level last term, and will take on some tough opposition in the Weatherbys Racing Bank Intermediate Chase (3:25).
The six-year-old landed Aintree’s Grade One novice event, but was disappointing when last seen pulling up a fortnight later at Ayr.
“Flying Angel is another who went well last term, added the Gloucestershire-handler.
“He won three chases including a Grade One at Aintree in April, but wasn’t his usual self at Ayr last time.
“He’s had some good time off and returns in good form with improvement to come. Jamie Bargary rides and the pair should go close.”
Nicholls duo Black Corton and Frodon are set to head the market for the race. The former won three races from four last season, and despite never racing in pattern company looks an improving type for the Ditcheat master.
Frodon won two Grade Two prizes last season, and made history when becoming only the second four-year-old to land Cheltenham’s December Gold Cup in 54 years.
Dan Skelton’s Knockgraffon and Colin Tizzard’s Sizing Tennesse also feature.