In-form Simon Holt provides two selections for Saturday's action at Sandown, with The Young Master fancies to win the bet365 Gold Cup for a second time.
In a race which has thrown up various dual winners, it's THE YOUNG MASTER and not antepost gamble Step Back who fancied to gain a second win in Saturday's bet365 Gold Cup at Sandown - fully three years after his first.
Multiple scorers in the race long known as the Whitbread include Larbawn (1968/69), Diamond Edge (79/81), Topsham Bay (92/93) and Ad Hoc (2001/03) but none have returned so long after the first success to win again.
For whatever reason, The Young Master has been a bit inconsistent since his defeat of Just A Par here in 2016 off a handicap mark of 148 and could finish only ninth to Henllan Harri a year later and eighth to Step Back 12 months ago.
However, this season has seen a renaissance with the ten-year-old capitalising on lower handicap marks to win at Chepstow and Cheltenham in October and November before returning from a mid-season break to take third behind Any Second Now in the Kim Muir at last month's Cheltenham Festival, where regular rider Sam Waley Cohen was unable to claim his 3lb allowance.
Few were staying on better in that race than The Young Master off his current rating of 142, some 6lb lower than when successful in this contest three years ago, and another bold bid now looks likely providing ground conditions do not deteriorate too much.
If the rain comes - and it is unclear how much will fall - the selection may find it harder work though he has plenty of form on good to soft ground.
Less well handicapped is last year's winner Step Back, who beat Rock The Kasbah 13 lengths and remains 10lb higher despite showing little in three outings this season, including behind The Young Master at Chepstow.
Rock The Kasbah, sixth in that same Chepstow race, also ran well here when sixth again behind Henllan Harri in 2017 but he was never really travelling before being brought down in the Grand National last time.
A bigger threat, despite racing off a career-high mark and forced to concede weight all round, could be Beware The Bear, who has shown much improved form in blinkers to win his last two starts at Cheltenham.
Yala Enki, not totally disgraced when seventh in the Gold Cup last time, also has a chance if the forecast showers ease the ground with all of his best form coinciding with cut.
The most progressive horse in the field could well be first-season chaser Talkischeap though Alan King's seven-year-old needs to prove his stamina after fading in the closing stages behind Walt over three miles at Kempton in February.
Earlier, GETAWAY TRUMP can prove hard to beat in the opening bet365 Novices' Championship Final Handicap Hurdle despite conceding weight all round.
The Paul Nicholls-trained six-year-old has, with the exception of one bad run at Kelso, shown continual improvement this season and could not have been more impressive when hacking up at Ayr last time for which he has gone up another 4lb.
Earlier performances behind Champ at Newbury and when fourth to Al Dancer in a hot handicap hurdle at Ascot also read well and, while he looks sure to start favourite, the manner of his latest win suggests he has the potential to become a high-class hurdler.
Posted at 1610 BST on 26/04/19