Western Cape is aiming to give the famous Mullins family a nice boost ahead of a huge week in Saturday’s 30th European Breeders’ Fund Greenall’s Gin “National Hunt” Novices’ Handicap Hurdle Final at Sandown.
Trained by Seamus Mullins, cousin of Ireland's champion trainer Willie, Western Cape was a 33/1 winner at Ascot in December and chased home the classy Duke Des Champs last time out.
The midweek rain appears to have harmed his chances, though.
“Western Cape has been aimed at the race since his win at Ascot,” said Mullins. “The only worry I have is the ground. As you can see with his form, he didn’t cope with heavy ground at Lingfield [on his hurdling debut]. On genuine soft ground he ran two very good races at Ascot.
“I am hoping that the sun continues to shine, we would be hopeful he could put up a big performance.”
Henry Daly is aiming two horses at the top of their game at the race.
Both Flashjack, ridden by Richard Johnson, and the Jake Greenall-ridden Will O'The West are arriving on the back of wins, with the latter on a hat-trick.
While Daly is famously pessimistic, he admits the pair will be going there in the right frame of mind.
“They are both going there full of confidence on the back of wins, which is never a bad thing,” he said.
“Flashjack ran well in a decent race at Haydock and then came out and won next time at Towcester.
“It looks like two-and-a-half miles will suit him and he looks the right type for this.
“Will O’The West has won his last two and deserves to go, too.
“They’ve both shown they can handle the very soft ground. Whether that’s what they want I’m not sure, but they’ve had to handle it this winter because that is all we’ve had.”
One trainer who did not want the rain was David Dennis for his Wade Harper, who sits near the top of the weights having won the last twice.
“I’ve been very pleased with his last two runs, particularly because the time before he had a fairly heavy fall at Haydock, so he’s bounced back well,” said Dennis.
“He defied a penalty at Catterick and while the second [Double W’s] was the eye-catcher and we might have struggled to beat him if he wasn’t interfered with, you can only beat what is put in front of you.”
Another with plenty of weight to carry is Brian Ellison’s Point The Way, winner of his last three.
“I’ve been quite surprised how much he has progressed, I must say,” said Ellison.
“He’s improved more than I thought he would, put it that way. He’s still in good form and will like the ground more than some of the others.
“I think he’ll run well.”