Junction Fourteen goes in search of hat-trick at Kempton on Saturday as he bids to continue his rapid progress in William Hill Lanzarote Hurdle.
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Not disgraced when fifth in a Wincanton bumper in the spring, the Emma Lavelle-trained five-year-old was third on his hurdling debut at Exeter before edging out Cloud Creeper by a head in a Fontwell thriller in late November.
He made a mockery of an initial handicap mark of 121 when scoring by 11 lengths over course and distance on Boxing Day and although the handicapper has bumped him up over a stone in the weights, Lavelle is hopeful of another bold show.
She said: "He's just turned five, he's run a few times and comes back better and stronger each time, so under the circumstances it's right to have a crack at a decent handicap with him and see where we are.
"He's done it there (at Kempton) already. OK it wasn't quite as good a race as this, but he did it very professionally.
"He's gone up 16lb, this is a better race and he's carrying more weight. Well see, but hopefully he's improving."
Nicky Henderson relies on River Maigue, a talented novice hurdler last term and an encouraging third on his seasonal bow at Sandown a month ago.
The champion trainer's string have tended to improve significantly for their first runs this season and the master of Seven Barrows is hoping River Maigue follows the trend.
Henderson said: "He ran well at Sandown and hopefully he's improved for that.
"With that run under his belt, hopefully he'll run a good race."
Henderson's great rival Paul Nicholls is represented by Saphir Du Rheu, who is rated 15lb higher than when bolting up at Sandown.
His owner Andy Stewart said: "I won this race a few years ago with Nycteos, who carried 10st 10lb, and this is another horse who could be a top-class chaser.
"He's got a lot of weight to carry but Harry Derham should take a useful few pounds off and the Lanzarote is the Lanzarote, so you've got to go for it."
Nicholls' former assistant Dan Skelton has made a flying start to his training career, winning the valuable Ladbroke Hurdle at Ascot with Willow's Saviour.
His assault on another major handicap prize comes through former Nicholls inmate Like Minded, who was second at Kempton in November before winning at Aintree the following month.
Skelton said: "We've gone up 6lb so hopefully we can find 6lb from somewhere.
"We'll go there hopeful that he'll run his race and be competitive, but it's impossible to say he's got a winning chance or anything like that.
"I can't see why he wouldn't run his race, though."
The Charlie Longsdon-trained Spirit Of Shankly won a strong novice hurdle at Haydock on his latest appearance, beating subsequent winner Urban Hymn.
Longsdon said: "I always thought Spirit Of Shankly was nicely handicapped on 133 but I notice they put him up to 136 after his last run.
"Running in a handicap could suit him and he'll have no problems with the ground."
David Pipe's Home Run is among the market principals, but the Pond House handler is not all that confident about his chances.
He said: "Life keeps getting harder and harder for Home Run as he keeps going up in the handicap but he keeps running well.
"He'd have a small each-way chance, I'd suppose."
Maller Tree turns out quickly after bolting up at Fakenham on New Year's Day.
Trainer David Dennis said: "He has been put up 13lb for his win the other day, which dictates where we go now.
"I really put him in the race in case it cut up, but it does look quite competitive.
"It was soft at Fakenham and he has won on soft in Ireland so he should handle the ground."
Foxcub has rocketed up the weights since his maiden victory at Southwell in May of last year, but trainer Tom Symonds is hopeful his six-year-old is still progressing.
"He's up to 137 now, having started off winning handicaps off 91, and there aren't many other options for him," said the fledgling trainer.
"He has only really run four times this season as he had a break in the summer and the only thing we won't know about is the ground, as he hasn't run on ground as soft before.
"I think he's still improving, but we'll find out.
"Although he's only small, he can be a chaser in time as he does jump fences well at home."