Warren Greatrex feels he has La Bague Au Roi “exactly where I want her” ahead of the mare’s reappearance in the Bet365 Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby.
A dual Grade One winner as a novice last season, the eight-year-old signed off her productive campaign with a second to Kalashnikov at Aintree, having skipped the Cheltenham Festival.
Greatrex could not be happier with his stable star and conditions look to be in her favour.
“She goes very well fresh and is in very good form. She is exactly where I want her. She will probably improve a little bit, but she is fit enough if good enough,” he said.
“She has got good form round Wetherby. It looks like the ground will be on the soft side, but that is not an issue and I couldn’t be happier with her.
“She is against the big boys now, but she gets all the allowances and that should help her. It’s a starting point and we will learn a lot from this run.
“I couldn’t have been happier with her last season and she beat everything put in front of her, apart from her last run, when she probably wasn’t at her best. She seems to have matured a bit more.
“She is in seriously good form and I don’t see why she can’t perform like last season and be even better.”
Colin Tizzard’s Elegant Escape was second in the Ladbrokes Trophy and won the Welsh National last season, before his form tailed off at Cheltenham and Aintree in the spring.
Joe Tizzard, assistant to his father, said: “Elegant Escape is in good form.
“He has summered well. He seems to have strengthened up and we are really looking forward to getting him started.
“He is only a seven-year-old and hopefully he can progress into a Gold Cup horse. He wouldn’t have to improve a lot to be a serious contender in a Gold Cup.
“The Grand National is also a target, and after Wetherby, he could go for the Betfair Chase or Becher Chase.”
Like La Bague Au Roi, the Phil Kirby-trained Top Ville Ben is another who excels at Wetherby. He was a fair third to Lostintranslation in a Grade One at Aintree when last seen.
Kirby said: “The Charlie Hall Chase has always been the plan for Top Ville Ben. It looks a competitive race, but we will see how he gets on.
“He deserves to take his chance in the race and it is all systems go for Wetherby.
“He loves the track and soft ground will suit.”
Dan Skelton’s Molly The Dolly is stepping up in class, but won a valuable pot at Ayr when last seen.
Skelton said: “It is going to be a very hard race, but we feel it is worth a go. She gets the mares’ allowance and a lot of horses have got to give her plenty of weight. She is very fit and she will handle the track.
“There should be no excuses and if she runs to the best she can she would be a competitive each-way runner.
“She is very good fresh and she hosed up first time out last season at Aintree, then she won at Uttoxeter before finishing second behind the horse that finished second in the Grand National (Magic Of Light).
“We gave her a long break afterwards until Ayr and she won a £100,000 handicap up there. We’ve kept her fresh for this weekend. We are doing something very bold with her.”
Ballyoptic got back on the winning trail at Chepstow first time out and Nigel Twiston-Davies is expecting another bold display.
He said: “He ran brilliantly at Chepstow and is weighted to be bang there in the Charlie Hall. He fell in the odd race last year when he could have won them, and he would have been close in the Grand National had he not have fallen. He is a nice horse.
“Winning last time may have helped his confidence and it won’t have done any harm, but he is a very laid-back horse. We earmarked this race after his win at Chepstow.”
Brian Ellison’s Definitly Red and the Venetia Williams-trained Aso make up the classy field.