All roads lead to Exeter Racecourse today which stages Devon's richest raceday featuring the 188Bet Haldon Gold Cup on the seven race card.
Eight horses have been declared for the racecourse's showpiece, worth £65,000, including the last two winners of the race, Sir Valentino and Vibrato Valtat who has moved from Paul Nicholls to Emma Lavelle.
Sir Valentino, who went on to finish fourth in the Queen Mother Champion Chase at the Cheltenham Festival, carries 13lb more than when he galloped to victory in 2016.
Nicholls saddles two runners. Bryony Frost is on board San Benedeto and Sam Twiston-Davies will ride the very highly regarded Politologue and if either win it will be the trainers sixth success in the race.
The Grade One winning chaser Ar Mad will make his first appearance for 11 months carrying top weight, and looks the one to beat, and Philip Hobbs will saddle Garde La Victoire who was second last year.
Forest Bihan makes the 600 mile round trip from a Yorkshire for Brian Ellison, and Kerry Lee will saddle Gino Trail.
The race takes place at 2pm and is the third on the card which begins at 1pm with an above average novice hurdle run over and sponsored by Tom Malone Bloodstock.
Harry Fry, who has a 50 per cent strike rate at the course this season, saddles duel bumper winner Just A Sting; Mance Rayder, also a bumper winner, will run in Diana Whateley’s well known blue colours and others to consider are Silver Kayf and Judge John Deed.
In the two mile three furlongs novices’ hurdle, Nicholls’ Dynamite Dollars lines up under a penalty following his Chepstow win last month, with His Dream and Dessinateur both former bumper winners making their hurdles debut.
Nigel Twitston-Davies is in red hot form and all eyes will be on his top class hurdle Ballyoptic who makes his eagerly awaited debut over fences in the three mile 188Bet Novices’ Chase. He faces some very smart opposition, including Barney Dwan and Elegant Escape, who was second at Chepstow last month on his first attempt over fences but he’s 11lb better than his rivals, and if he takes to jumping the bigger obstacles should win.
The Smith & Williamson Handicap Chase looks a cracking race on paper with plenty of former winners in the mix including four course and distance winners – Venetia Williams’ Royal Palladium, Colin Tizzard’s Wizards Bridge, Robert Walford’s Casternie and Only Gorgeous, saddled by Sue Gardner who has such a n admirable record at the track.
The two miles seven furlongs handicap hurdle is a cracking puzzle for punters to unravel with a case to be argued for several runners including Kim Bailey’s Champagne To Go, second last time at Newton Abbot and his handicap debut, Fraser Canyon, who could well improve fir his run at Fontwell in October on his season reappearance and Rio Brave, who was a credible second in September and has potential off his handicap debut mark.
Concluding the card is a 19-runner handicap hurdle run over two miles two furlongs and Graeme MacPherson’s Silva Samourai could improve for his debut run for the yard at Huntongton last month where he was third.
Gates open at 11am for Exeter’s showpiece meeting, with a free bus to and from the course from Exeter St David’s and Exeter Bus and Coach Station. Details are vailable at www.exeter-racecourse.co.uk