Nick Grant: Lord Windermere to be crowned Hennessy king
A long-term plan is expected to come to fruition for Lord Windermere when he makes the journey from Ireland for the Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury.
This famous old handicap has pretty much been on the agenda for the Jim Culloty-trained seven-year-old since he claimed the RSA Chase at Cheltenham.
You need to stay to win at Cheltenham in what is the novice Gold Cup, so he certainly ticks that particular box, and horses like Trabolgan, Bobs Worth and Denman have gone from the RSA to Hennessy glory.
Reasonable ground - something he has been denied in Ireland - is also a definite plus, and Culloty has made no secret of the fact he carries a high degree of stable confidence.
Nowhere near exposed, everything he had done at home prior to Cheltenham suggested he would come into his own with a thorough test of stamina, and that is exactly what happened.
The first try at three miles at Cheltenham seemed to help him travel and his jumping is sound.
In short, there appears to be very few negatives.
One of the best cards of the season sees a fascinating bet365 Long Distance Hurdle, with At Fishers Cross fancied to confirm himself the heir apparent to staying king Big Buck's.
Trained by the upwardly mobile Rebecca Curtis, he took a couple of runs to get the hang of things over hurdles but has not looked back since, winning in style at Cheltenham in March and following up at Aintree - a not-often-done double.
Also in the book is a defeat of current Champion Hurdle favourite The New One at Cheltenham in January, and while this is his first test against battle-hardened types such as Reve De Sivola, ground conditions promise to be in his favour as the latter needs it heavy to be seen to best effect.
Melodic Rendezvous is a sporting pick against hotpot My Tent Or Yours in the StanJames.com Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle.
Jeremy Scott is no fool and has always held his stable star in the highest regard, but knows this will be the acid test of whether he is a genuine challenger for the two-mile hurdling crown next year.
His resume is exemplary, and he can number a second to the top-notch Champagne Fever in a Punchestown bumper among his efforts. That reverse is one of only two in his career, the other other being on his hurdling bow.
A dirty scope meant he missed the big spring festivals this year - and an earlier clash with My Tent Or Yours - but there was lots to like about his attitude in giving 4lb and a beating to Triumph Hurdle runner-up Far West on his return at Wincanton.
Far West has let the form down since, but, in truth, the run was way too bad to be true, so Melodic Rendezvous should not be written off on that front.
My Tent Of Yours has bigger targets ahead and race-fitness might just prove a deciding factor for the Scott runner as he looks the type to improve for that first run.
Master Of The Hall was an eyecatcher on his first start for Micky Hammond and should be followed in the At The Races Rehearsal Chase.
Formerly with Nicky Henderson, he has been used to mixing it in Grade Ones and Twos, and while his form tailed off towards the end of his time at Seven Barrows there was no doubting he looked rejuvenated for his new surroundings when taking his chance in the Charlie Hall last month.
Despite falling, he went very well for a long way and, although he might need his mark to drop a few more pounds, if he has come out of that unscathed he can play a leading role in this kind of company.
Solar Deity was out of luck in a good race at Lingfield a fortnight ago, but can set the record straight in the Ladbrokes Handicap at Wolverhampton.
Marco Botti's consistent colt was continually compromised for room in a one-mile handicap, but finished strongly to take fifth place, beaten just two lengths.
Solar Deity knows Wolverhampton well, having won a Listed prize here in March, and should again be competitive on the same mark at which he raced at Lingfield.
Fergal O'Brien is enjoying a good run and can bag another winner with Allerton on his return to Bangor for the corbettsports Handicap Chase.
The six-year-old was a course winner earlier this month and still looks well treated, and even better can be expected now he tries an extra half-mile as he definitely stays and is open to plenty of improvement at trips beyond three miles.
Royal Native is the pick in the EBF Stallions "National Hunt" Novices' Hurdle at Towcester.
The five-year-old fell when going nicely at Exeter and has rather handily been dropped 3lb for that.
BANGOR: 12.30 Distime, 1.00 Cloverhill Lad, 1.30 Allerton, 2.00 Dakar Run, 2.35 Talkin Sence, 3.10 The Last Samuri, 3.45 Bitofapuzzle.
FAIRYHOUSE: 12.25 Sure Reef, 12.55 Speckled Wood, 1.25 Dylan Ross, 1.55 Corbally Ghost, 2.30 Flat Out, 3.05 Gold Patrol, 3.40 Shaneshill.
NEWBURY: 12.20 Free Thinking, 12.50 Black River, 1.20 Handy Andy, 1.50 Whisper, 2.25 At Fishers Cross, 3.00 LORD WINDERMERE (NAP), 3.35 Grey Gold.
NEWCASTLE: 12.05 Swatow Typhoon, 12.35 Presented, 1.05 Oscar Rock, 1.35 Moyode Wood, 2.05 Melodic Rendezvous, 2.40 Master Of The Hall, 3.15 Full Shift.
TOWCESTER: 12.15 Born To Benefit, 12.45 Lord Landen, 1.15 Royal Native, 1.45 Changing Lanes, 2.15 Oscatara, 2.50 Royaume Bleu, 3.20 Two Jabs.
WOLVERHAMPTON: 5.50 Daneglow, 6.20 Grande Mago, 6.50 Prestige Roses, 7.20 Mick Duggan, 7.50 Poppy Bond, 8.20 Solar Deity, 8.50 Kielty's Folly, 9.20 Red Shadow.
DOUBLE: Lord Windermere and Melodic Rendezvous.