Connections of Anibale Fly feel the step up to three miles should not pose too much of a problem for the Irish raider in the 32Red Kauto Star Novices’ Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day.
The six-year-old, trained by Tony Martin, won his first start over fences in good style at Navan last month and progressed from that promising effort to finish second behind Coney Island in the Grade One Drinmore Novice Chase at Fairyhouse three weeks ago.
Having shown he could comfortably cope with the move from two miles and a furlong to two and a half miles, Anibale Fly now tackles an extra half a mile in his second run at the top level.
“He ran a blinder the last day,” said Frank Berry, racing manager to owner JP McManus.
“It’s his first time over three miles and you’d be hoping that won’t be a problem. He won at two and a half over hurdles.
“He goes over there in good form. It’s a competitive race and we’re hoping for a good run.”
The Paul Nicholls-trained Frodon tackles Grade One company following his victory in the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup.
The four-year-old defied his tender age to take the honours in the prestigious handicap chase at Cheltenham.
Though he is now stepping out of handicap grade, the weight-for-age allowance means Frodon will receive 7lb from his nine rivals.
Nicholls said in his Betfair blog: “He is running here as a bit of an afterthought and, while this is a step up in trip for him, he was strong at the finish at Cheltenham and escapes any penalties for all his wins over fences.
“Although it is only just over a fortnight since Frodon had a hardish race at Cheltenham you would never know it from his behaviour at home.
“He’s been absolutely buzzing and was electric when we schooled him on Friday morning. He was mad fresh, bucking and squealing, loving every minute of it.
“Yes, in theory this race could come a bit quick for Frodon but he seems to be in the form of his life.”
Nicholls also saddles Present Man, and added: “He has been a revelation this season, looking better with each run and deserves a crack at this Grade One prize.
“He is a sound jumper, keeps finding more at the end of his races and is definitely best going right-handed.
“He has done nothing but improve and won last time at Doncaster with a bit in hand despite giving lengths away at several fences by jumping to his right.”
Trainer Dan Skelton is double-handed with Churchtown Champ and Virgilio, and expects both horses to put up decent displays.
“Apart from Frodon, Virgilio is not far off the top ones on ratings and Churchtown Champ has always been coming to this race,” said the Alcester handler.
“They’ll both take their chance, they’ll both like the ground and the three miles. It’s quite a competitive-looking race, really.”
Johnny Farrelly is hoping Amore Alato will be at his peak for this Grade One challenge.
Amore Alato still qualifies as a novice as he failed to win from six starts over fences last term when he took on classy company including Ballyalton, Silviniaco Conti and Bristol De Mai.
He got off the mark first time out this season when making most of the running to land a Listed intermediate chase at Sandown seven weeks ago.
“We have kept him plenty straight enough at home and he will improve for his first run,” said Somerset-based Farrelly.
“We’ve worked hard to get him ready for this race as this is his Gold Cup.
“I always felt he wanted three miles but last season we wanted him to learn and keep him below three miles until he was a year older. Three miles is definitely his trip.
“He is in good form and handles most types of ground as he has good form on good and soft ground. He wouldn’t go there if it is bottomless, but I can’t see that happening.”
Nicky Henderson is another to be doubly represented with Caracci Apache and Might Bite, while t rainer Colin Tizzard relies upon Royal Vacation after opting to run Thistlecrack in the King George VI Chase.
Minella Daddy, from Peter Bowen’s Haverfordwest stable in Pembrokeshire, completes the 10-strong field.