Notable Speech and Devoted Queen both remained unbeaten with impressive displays at Kempton, as Charlie Appleby could have unearthed a couple of Classic contenders.

With the form of his previous course-and-distance victory over Cuban Tiger getting a timely boost at Newcastle recently, Dubawi colt Notable Speech was sent off the 4-7 favourite for his third career appearance in the Virgin Bet Best Odds Daily British EBF Conditions Stakes.

Up against some smart rivals, including Ralph Beckett’s well-regarded Derby entrant Valvano, he was ridden with supreme confidence by William Buick and showed a blistering turn of foot as he sprinted past that challenger in the closing stages.

The Godolphin homebred was cut to as short as 14-1 with bet365 for the 2000 Guineas, with his rider feeling he has now justified a step up in grade.

Buick said: “He’s shown the last twice here he can do that and it was a really good performance and he deserves to go up in grade now.

“Today was a warm race with a few unexposed types and he gave away weight to all of them, so I’m delighted.

“I was very pleased with how he has done physically since the last time I rode him – he has really filled out and I feel like he has grown a bit as well, which is always nice to see from a horse who has had two runs.

“I couldn’t be more happy with him and I tested him a little bit today and he quickened up in a stride.

“I just had to pick a path and he’s such a genuine, easy horse to deal with. He’s got a bright future ahead of him.

“It’s so wet, so it was a nice opportunity for him to come here and run again on this surface. I think he would handle a little bit of cut in the ground, but he’s a very fast horse with a low action, so I think he would want a bit of decent ground.

“He’s opened up a few options there but he’s a speedy miler.”

Buick was also in the plate aboard another hot Moulton Paddocks prospect as Devoted Queen overcame her inexperience to instigate a Godolphin double on the card in the Virgin Bet Daily Extra Places British EBF Fillies’ Conditions Stakes.

Although far from the finished article, her jockey was encouraged by the promise shown and is hopeful the 1-2 odds-on scorer can become a smart performer as the season progresses

“It was very much a learning day for her and she has come through it,” added Buick, who also tasted Listed success on the card aboard Joseph O’Brien’s Adelaise.

“She’s very inexperienced and she needs to work on a few things. I’m sure she will get there and today was a new experience for her, she was a bit fresh early but got there in the end.

“When she hit the front, she probably had a bit of a look and showed her inexperience, so all in all I think everyone will be really pleased with that.

“It’s a bit early to say (about the 1000 Guineas) and I’m sure we will get her home and those options will be discussed. She has got the talent.

“She is the type of filly, with the way she is built, that will keep improving and progressing and I’m sure there is plenty to look forward to with her.”

A taking winner of a Newmarket maiden previously, Devoted Queen was trimmed to 20-1 from 25s by Coral for the Qipco 1000 Guineas on May 5.

Duty Of Care booked his ticket to Royal Ascot when going one better than last year in the Virgin Bet Queen’s Prize Handicap at Kempton.

Second to Charlie Appleby’s Bandinelli in the valuable staying contest 12 months ago, Saffie Osborne left nothing to chance aboard her father Jamie’s six-year-old this time around as she tracked the strong pace set by James Owen’s Sweet Fantasy.

Entering the straight for the final time, the 6-1 chance had just Sweet Fantasy ahead and as that rival began to cry enough, Duty Of Care was relishing every yard as he bounded on to a comfortable two-and-three-quarter-length success over fellow race regular Sleeping Lion.

Owned by Pat Gallagher, Duty Of Care could next be seen at Ascot in the summer, with Osborne senior targeting the Ascot Stakes at the royal meeting for the son of Kingman.

The trainer said: “He just needs a true test and the last couple of runs we haven’t had that. We didn’t take any chances today and we stuck him on the front end, and if the pace was going to slacken, we were there, so it stayed true.

“Thankfully, we had a good lead and we didn’t need to do it ourselves and he’s a different horse once it becomes a two-mile race where you need two-mile stamina.

“Pat has been very patient and I have been telling him for a long time that this horse is alright and he keeps getting beaten.

“The Ascot Stakes over two-and-a-half (will be the plan). He will be fine on the turf and he probably won’t run again until then. That’s my plan and I will have to discuss it with the owner, but I think that would be a very obvious call for him now.”

The burden of top-weight proved no barrier to success for Cemhaan as George Baker’s charge secured a surprise victory in the Virgin Bet Every Saturday Money Back Rosebery Handicap at Kempton.

The seven-year-old was already a dual winner at the Sunbury circuit, with his most recent triumph last May followed by a third-place finish behind Vauban in the Copper Horse Handicap at Royal Ascot.

He was subsequently well beaten in the Ebor at York, though, and while his January comeback at Kempton was not devoid of promise, he was a 25-1 shot for this £100,000 contest in the hands of Neil Callan.

After jumping out of the stalls smartly, Cemhaan briefly threatened to make all the running before eventually sitting on the heels of both Killybegs Warrior and Old Peculier.

With the pace visibly slackening before the home turn, the front end turned out to be the place to be and both Killybegs Warrior and Cemhaan found another gear once asked to fight out the finish.

Killybegs Warrior did not go down easily, but Cemhaan wore him down late on and passed the post three-quarters of a length to the good, with the free-going Intinso best of the rest in third.

“It was a very good, tough performance – he loves the track, this horse,” Callan said of the winner.

“He’s been so consistent and had a good run at Ascot last year, which just shows you the sort of level he’s been mixing it at.

“I won a small-field handicap on him last year when he dominated from the front and he jumped that well I was going to let him bowl along again today, but James (Doyle, on Killybegs Warrior) was intent on getting to the front.

“I kind of knew when he got there, he would slow it up, which I knew would suit me because my horse had a lot of weight on his back and you wouldn’t want to be stretching him from a long way out.

“I think the way the race panned out played into my hands and as long as I had the revs up going to the junction at the cut-off, I knew I’d pick them off. He’s very genuine and tough.”

Baker’s wife, Candida, added: “George is playing golf in Africa. I think he’d much rather be here today!

“I’m so pleased. Cemhaan went all the way to St Moritz and then the racing was called off, which was very annoying as all the owners were out there and it takes about three days to get him there.

“This was always the plan for him once we brought him back. With that top-weight, he was so tough, I got the saddle off Neil and I was carrying it thinking, ‘God, I’m not going to put this on him too early if I can help it’. He’s just so genuine, tries so much and I’m chuffed to bits, he owes us nothing.

“Neil is an excellent jockey – when he’s in a ride-off against another jockey, I’d back him every time, even when it’s against James Doyle.”

Adelaise pulled out all the stops in the Virgin Bet Daily Price Boosts Snowdrop Fillies’ Stakes to give Joseph O’Brien a raiding winner at Kempton on Saturday.

The five-year-old produced some consistent performances in several competitive heats last term, but finally secured a valuable black type victory in the hands of William Buick at the Sunbury track.

Sent off the 100-30 second favourite for the one-mile Listed event, Adelaise was ridden along by her pilot with two furlongs to run, but soon hit top gear as she began a ding-dong battle to the line with 5-2 market leader Choisya.

There was little to separate the two protagonists inside the final half furlong, but the Irish challenger got her head in front where it mattered most to make O’Brien’s first UK Flat runner of the year a winning one.

Buick said: “She was a bit in my hands early and a bit fresh, but she was always in a nice rhythm and I attacked early in the straight.

“We didn’t go overly quick and I knew she would stay all the way to the line. She definitely got headed, so she had to show true grit. I think a mile is her trip and she may get a little bit further, but we will see.

“I’ve ridden a winner for Joseph before and it’s nice to get a call-up from him – he doesn’t come over here for nothing.

“I think this was very important for both her and connections to get that valuable black type against her name and hopefully there will be a bit of improvement to come for the rest of the season.”

Last year’s winner Pic D’Orhy, Ryanair Chase hero Protektorat and Cheltenham Festival absentee Jonbon are among 13 entries for the My Pension Expert Melling Chase at Aintree on Friday.

The Paul Nicholls-trained Pic D’Orhy was a decisive winner of the two-and-a-half-mile Grade One 12 months ago and has deliberately been saved for the defence of his crown since claiming the notable scalp of L’Homme Presse in the Ascot Chase in February.

Dan Skelton, who is challenging his former mentor for the champion trainer title this season, entered Protektorat for Thursday’s Aintree Bowl over three miles but has also given him the option of sticking to a shorter distance the following day.

Nicky Henderson’s crack two miler Jonbon sidestepped the Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham during what was a tough week for the Seven Barrows team and will therefore be fresher than some on what will be his first attempt at this trip.

The Willie Mullins-trained Easy Game, Joseph O’Brien’s Banbridge, Gordon Elliott’s pair of Ash Tree Meadow and Conflated and the Henry de Bromhead-trained duo of Envoi Allen and Jungle Boogie are all possible challengers from Ireland.

Elixir De Nutz (Joe Tizzard), Funambule Sivola (Venetia Williams), Minella Drama (Donald McCain) and Thunder Rock (Olly Murphy) are the other contenders.

Supreme Novices’ Hurdle hero Slade Steel is the potential star attraction in the Trustatrader Top Novices’ Hurdle.

De Bromhead’s charge is one of 21 contenders for the Grade One contest and part of a formidable Irish contingent that also includes Elliott’s mare Brighterdaysahead and Supreme second Mystical Power, who leads a five-strong Mullins squad.

Caldwell Potter, bought for €740,000 out of Elliott’s yard for an ownership group which includes Sir Alex Ferguson, is pencilled in to make his debut for Nicholls in the same race, while Cheltenham Festival heroine Golden Ace (Jeremy Scott) and unbeaten mare Dysart Enos (Fergal O’Brien) also feature.

The opening Huyton Asphalt Franny Blennerhassett Memorial Mildmay Novices’ Chase is similarly strong, with Grey Dawning (Skelton), Corbetts Cross (Emmet Mullins), Inothewayurthinkin (Gavin Cromwell) and Chianti Classico (Kim Bailey) all potentially bidding to follow up Cheltenham Festival success.

The fourth and final Grade One on the card is the Cavani Sartorial Menswear Sefton Novices’ Hurdle, which features the Albert Bartlett one-two of Stellar Story (Elliott) and The Jukebox Man (Ben Pauling).

Il Est Francais lost his unbeaten record over fences after trailing home a bitterly disappointing last of five in the Grade Two Prix Murat at Auteuil.

Trained in France by Noel George and Amanda Zetterholm, the six-year-old was thoroughly impressive in winning his first three starts over the larger obstacles, with back-to-back wins at Auteuil followed by a brilliant front-running victory in the Kauto Star Novices’ Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day.

Connections soon ruled out a return to Britain for the Cheltenham Festival, instead electing to remain on home soil for the time being, with a tilt at next month’s Grand Steeple-Chase de Paris – the French equivalent of the Cheltenham Gold Cup – top of his agenda.

Il Est Francais was unsurprisingly prohibitive odds to make a successful return from just over three months off the track and with the extra mile of the Grand Steep perhaps in mind, James Reveley switched to more patient tactics, initially attempting to settle his mount at the rear of the five-strong field.

The Yorkshireman eventually gave Il Est Francais his head and allowed him to stride in front, but the petrol tank quickly ran to empty on straightening up for home and he had almost stopped to a walk by the time he clambered over the final fence.

Reveley allowed his mount to coast home from there on in as Youtwo Glass narrowly denied the George and Zetterholm second string Gallipoli victory in a driving finish.

Paddy Twomey is likely to have a clearer idea about Deepone’s potential ambitions for the rest of the season after he makes his return in the P.W. McGrath Memorial Ballysax Stakes at Leopardstown on Sunday.

The Study Of Man colt finished off his juvenile campaign in fine style, winning the Group Two Beresford Stakes by a length and threequarters at the Curragh in September, his third success from five starts.

Prior to that, he came home fourth behind Diego Velazquez in the KPMG Champions Juvenile Stakes on Irish Champions Weekend at Leopardstown and was runner-up in the Churchill Stakes at Tipperary.

Deepone, who holds big-race entries in the Irish 2,000 Guineas and the Derby at Epsom, will take a step up in trip on his three-year-old debut for this recognised Classic trial over 10 furlongs, won previously by the likes of Galileo, High Chaparral, Fame And Glory and Harzand.

“He’s wintered well and I think it’s a good place to start,” said Twomey.

“He has a 5lb penalty for his win in the Beresford Stakes last season, but we’re looking forward to running him on Sunday.

“I think stepping up in trip will play to his strengths, I think a mile and a quarter to a mile and a half should be well within his compass.”

Aidan O’Brien has three entries as he goes in search of a 12th Ballysax success, including Illinois, a soft-ground scorer at the Curragh before finishing third behind stablemate Los Angeles in the Group One Criterium de Saint-Cloud.

Ocean Of Dreams made a huge impression on his racecourse debut at this track in October, romping home by six lengths on heavy going, while The Euphrates obliged on his second outing at Gowran Park when the mud was flying.

The field is completed by Dallas Star, with the Amo Racing-owned Zetland Stakes third making his first start for Adrian Murray after moving from the yard of Dominic Ffrench Davis.

Twomey has another promising three-year-old making a seasonal debut on the same card as A Lilac Rolla contests the Group Three Ballylinch Stud “Priory Belle” Stakes.

A filly by Harry Angel, A Lilac Rolla enjoyed a brief but flawless juvenile season, winning on her July debut at Cork before taking a Curragh fillies’ race by a head from Opera Singer the following month.

That form could hardly have worked out better, as Opera Singer went on to win the Group Three Newtownanner Stud Stakes by six and a half lengths and then the elite-level Prix Marcel Boussac by five lengths.

“She had a good year last year, she won her maiden and then she won her next race in good style,” Twomey said.

“She beat a very good filly in Opera Singer, she’s wintered well and is ready to start.

“The ground conditions may not be ideal but she’s in a good place and this is a good starting point for the season ahead.

“It was a good race (the Curragh race), she’s done well all winter and we’re looking forward to getting her started.”

Elsewhere in the seven-furlongs contest, there are four Ballydoyle runners in Buttons, Cherry Blossom, Greenfinch and Sweetest, with Donnacha O’Brien set to saddle Mysteries.

Joseph Murphy has entered Alpheratz, Jim Bolger is represented by Finsceal Luas and the field is completed by Natalia Lupini’s Kitty Rose, Noel Meade’s Money Dancer, Ger Lyons’ Wendla and the Alice Haynes-trained British raider Lexington Belle.

The other Group Three on the card is the Ballylinch Stud “Red Rocks” Stakes, which features Aidan O’Brien’s trio of Battle Cry, Samuel Colt and The Liffey, as well as Joseph O’Brien’s course and distance winner Atlantic Coast, plus Jack Davison’s dominant Madrid Handicap winner Take Me To Church.

Sunway will be out to keep Classic dreams alive when he returns to action in the Prix la Force at ParisLongchamp on Sunday.

David Menuisier’s colt highlighted his ability right from the beginning of his two-year-old campaign and although fluffing his lines in the Pat Eddery Stakes at Ascot, was back to his best when second in a soft-ground Champagne Stakes at Doncaster in September.

He ended the season by striking at the highest level in Saint-Cloud’s Criterium International and it is no surprise the son of Galiway heads back to France for the first outing of his Classic season in the hands of regular big-race pilot Oisin Murphy.

“The horse seems well and he had a stretch of the legs at Kempton the other day and we were very pleased with him,” said Menuisier.

“He’s in a good place for a first run and we will be keeping our fingers crossed.

“It is famous last words, but the ground shouldn’t be an issue. It will be hard on the horses but we feel ours goes on it quite good and the trip shouldn’t be a problem, so we go there quite positive.”

Sunway holds an entry for the Qipco 2000 Guineas at Newmarket in early May, but Menuisier would like to keep treading a continental path with his star colt, with a return to his homeland for the French Derby at Chantilly high up on the three-year-old’s list of priorities.

“Later down the line, we would like to aim at the Prix du Jockey Club, but we need to take races one by one, obviously,” he added.

“We could drop back in trip to run in one of the Guineas or we could go up in trip to run in a Derby trial next month. It will all depend on what happens this weekend and what Oisin and the owners think – and then we will take it from there.”

There is plenty of British interest in the French capital on Sunday afternoon and Charlie Appleby’s one-time Derby hopeful Military Order will continue his recovery mission in the Prix d’Harcourt.

A winner of three of his first four starts, the son of Frankel was sent off at 9-2 when disappointing at Epsom last summer.

Another failure at Chester followed, but having been gelded over the winter, he has produced two encouraging displays on the all-weather, landing the Winter Derby at Southwell most recently.

Rivals in the 10-furlong Group Two include Grand Prix de Paris winner Feed The Flame and Patrice Cottier’s multiple winner and Champion Stakes third Horizon Dore, with Military Order one of two Godolphin candidates alongside Andre Fabre’s Birr Castle.

“Military Order goes into this in good shape on the back of his Winter Derby success,” Appleby told www.godolphin.com.

“Conditions will be testing in Paris, although he handled soft ground at Newbury last season.”

Karl Burke’s Molten Rock will attempt to build on her encouraging third in Newmarket’s Montrose Stakes on her return to action in the Group Three Prix Vanteaux, while both Jack Channon’s Gather Ye Rosebuds and Kevin Philippart De Foy’s Ermesinde will take part in the Listed Prix Zarkava.

Leopardstown’s high-profile meeting on Sunday, due to feature a recognised Derby trial in the P.W. McGrath Memorial Ballysax Stakes, will have to pass a 7.30am inspection if it is to go ahead.

The Group Three contest has thrown up several top-class performers over the years, including three subsequent Epsom winners in Galileo (2001), High Chaparral (2002) and Harzand (2016).

Leopardstown is also due to stage two other Group Three events in the Ballylinch Stud “Red Rocks” Stakes and the Ballylinch Stud “Priory Belle” Stakes, but the prospect of further rain falling on already heavy ground has prompted IHRB clerk of the course Lorcan Wyer to call a morning check.

He said: “Following three millimetres of rain since declarations, the track at Leopardstown is heavy and fit for racing at present.

“According to Met Eireann, there is the potential for a further three to five millimetres of rain throughout today into tomorrow, as well as the high winds associated with Storm Kathleen today.

“Due to the current adverse weather conditions, we will have a 7.30am inspection on Sunday morning to assess the situation.”

Downpatrick’s meeting on Sunday has already been cancelled, while officials at Carlisle have announced a precautionary inspection for 7am ahead of the scheduled final day of the Go North Series Finals.

Saturday’s meeting at Uttoxeter was given the go-ahead following a morning check, but racing at the Curragh was called off due to waterlogging.

Tuesday’s Flat meeting at Navan has been called off, while Hexham’s jumps card on the same day also looks in serious doubt, with officials calling an inspection for 7.30am on Sunday.

Looking even further ahead, officials at Leicester have announced an inspection for 8am on Tuesday ahead of the track’s scheduled fixture on Friday, with the course currently waterlogged and unraceable.

This afternoon’s National Hunt meeting at Uttoxeter will go ahead as scheduled after the track passed a morning inspection, but racing at the Curragh has been abandoned.

Hopes of any turf racing taking place in Britain on Saturday hinged a second precautionary check at Uttoxeter at 7.30am. An initial inspection was staged at 2pm on Friday and while there was standing water in some areas, the track was described as raceable.

Officials announced a further precautionary inspection for raceday morning and were able to give the fixture the go-ahead.

The news was not so good in Ireland, with a Curragh card due to feature the Group Three Tote.ie Alleged Stakes abandoned due to a waterlogged track.

Brendan Sheridan, the IHRB clerk of the course at the Curragh, said: “Following a further four millimetres of rain in the last 24 hours, unfortunately we have to cancel the fixture scheduled at the Curragh today as parts of the track are just not fit for racing.”

The disruption could continue on Sunday, with meetings at Carlisle and Downpatrick subject to morning inspections at 7am and 7.30am respectively.

Tuesday’s Flat meeting at Navan has already been cancelled, while Hexham’s jumps card on the same day also looks in serious doubt, with officials calling an inspection for 7.30am on Sunday.

Looking even further ahead, officials at Leicester have announced an inspection for 8am on Tuesday ahead of the track’s scheduled fixture on Friday, with the course currently waterlogged and unraceable.

Just days after completing a ninth-consecutive Trainers' Championship triumph at Florida’s Gulfstream Park, Barbadian Saffie Joseph Jnr, kicked off the new season with a double on Thursday’s opening day of the Spring/Summer meet.

Joseph won the fourth and sixth races, the richest on the eight-race card. In the US$60,000 Maiden Special Weight fourth race, Joseph’s four-year-old filly Divine won with Edwin Gonzalez aboard as the 3-2 favourite. Joseph completed the double with 2-1 bet Imonra in the US$62,000 Allowance Optional Claiming sixth race with Paco Lopez riding.

The Spring/Summer meet, which Joseph has won for the past four consecutive years since 2020, runs until September 29.

Joseph is currently ranked eighth on the 2024 trainers’ list in all of North America with horses’ earnings of US$3.07 million.

Reflecting on his championship feat which he wrapped up last weekend, Joseph attributed the win to the quality of his team. The 37-year-old ended the campaign with 66 winners and in excess of US $3.4 million in purse earnings, once again ahead of Hall-of-Famer Todd Pletcher, who finished second with 37 winners.

“We’re always trying to get better, and to win a third championship meet in a row was very gratifying for all the work that the staff put in, and that’s what puts me in this position. I have a good team that works hard and we try to do it together. And the owners that supply these horses, the horses are the backbone and the big piece of the puzzle," Joseph said.

“We’ve got quality and we’ve got quantity, and that’s what you need to win titles and to stay relevant in today’s industry. You’ve got to keep winning. That’s what people want," he added.

British Horseracing Authority chief executive Julie Harrington has expressed her delight at the positive response to this week’s new HorsePWR campaign relating to welfare in racing.

Encouraging feedback has flooded in from various sectors of the sport, with trainers, jockeys, breeders, owners and media representatives welcoming the initiative.

HorsePWR has its own dedicated website to provide information about the sport and the thoroughbred, the lives they lead and the high welfare and safety standards within racing.

In a statement on www.horsepwr.co.uk, Harrington said: “The response to our HorsePWR campaign is unprecedented for racing. For the industry to rally behind this cause with such full-throated support is immensely heartening.

“We deliberately took a bold and innovative approach to tackling welfare concerns fully aware that it carried a risk of a negative response in some quarters.

“But the way the sport has readily embraced this new concept shows just how much everyone in it recognises that perceptions around welfare are a critical issue for our future.

“It also shows that we recognise the need to be open, transparent and to tackle welfare concerns head-on.

“We should have confidence in what we do and understand that it is through education and information that we will build trust in the sport.

“We are extremely grateful to all the organisations and individuals who have supported the campaign.

“This is just the start and it is important to recognise that the impact campaigns have should never be judged on one day alone.

“We want to grow the campaign and use it to reach wider audiences. We also call on the sport to continue to promote and support the campaign as much as possible. It is in everyone’s best interest to do so.”

The website explores the areas that racing has committed to improve, such as the lives horses go on to have after racing, reducing risk on and off course and facts surrounding the whip.

Intinso will bid to follow up his successful comeback when lining up in the Virgin Bet Every Saturday Money Back Rosebery Handicap at Kempton.

Connections had high expectations for the John and Thady Gosden-trained four-year-old at the beginning of last season, starting his year off in the Feilden Stakes after a successful debut on the synthetics at Newcastle late on during his juvenile days.

Although he failed to add to his tally at three, he produced some encouraging displays and, having been gelded over the winter, the son of Siyouni impressed on his return at Wolverhampton last month.

Hopes are now raised that Intinso can continue on an upward curve and provide his Clarehaven training team with a first triumph in the £100,000 contest.

“He’s been in good form and he made a nice comfortable comeback win after being gelded,” said Teddy Grimthorpe, racing manager for owner-breeder Imad Alsagar

“He has always actually been held in quite high regard by John and he’s been very straightforward moving into the race. This will be a major test, but he ran really well at York and in the Shergar Cup.

“We know he can handle the surface and we’re looking for a good run. Hopefully he will develop into a nice staying horse.”

Intinso is disputing matters at the top of the market with Andrew Balding’s Old Harrovian, who created a taking impression on the all-weather last spring before going on to run in Group Three company.

He returns from almost a year off with Oisin Murphy in the saddle, while Ed Bethell is optimistic Chillingham can build on a consistent 2023 campaign.

He said: “Hopefully he will run well. Dropping back a furlong wouldn’t be the best thing, but we have our fingers crossed he can run a nice race.

“He’s been a decent horse and danced a few dances now. Hopefully he’s freshened up over the winter and we can have a good season with him.”

Cannon Rock looked a stayer on the rise when breaking his maiden in good style at Newmarket two years ago.

Purchased out of Charlie Appleby’s yard by James Owen since, he has been seen just the once in the following 535 days, returning from a long lay-off to win readily at Southwell last month.

The Fastnet Rock gelding now faces an acid test of his potential, as he attempts to back up that Rolleston victory and provide his handler with a notable feather in his cap early on in his bourgeoning training career.

“He was bought to go juvenile hurdling actually, but he is just not a soft ground horse basically, so we’ve been waiting and waiting,” said Owen.

“We ran him at Southwell and he did surprise us a little bit. He had won a Newmarket maiden and then met with a setback which allowed us to buy him. He is all over that now, which he proved at Southwell, and he’s trained great since and worked very well.

“This is probably throwing him in at the deep end a little bit but it’s very good prize-money and I think this will show us where we are.

“He’s been drawn really well and we’ve put the cheekpieces back on him basically to help him be a bit more streetwise. They were on him when he won his maiden and I just thought we’d put them on, as it’s a really good prize and we want to give it our best chance.

“He’s fit and ready to go and I think he could run a massive race – he shows a lot of ability at home.”

Meanwhile, George Baker is hoping the Swiss air of St. Moritz can help Cemhaan produce his best, with the highest-rated runner in the field twice a winner in the past at the Sunbury venue.

A regular in these high-quality middle-distance events, his handler is now looking forward to what he can produce as he continues to fly the flag for his stable.

“He’s been a star for us and he actually had an aborted trip to St. Moritz recently, but he has come back off the mountain in good form and we are very happy with him,” said Baker.

“Sadly, the racing didn’t happen up the mountain, so he went all the way over there, had a bit of fresh air and came home. He’s going from the snow to the all-weather but he’s got plenty of decent form on the surface and we have our fingers firmly crossed he runs a big race for us.

“It’s obviously a hugely competitive race and he’s got a lot of weight as well, but he’s in good order and we’re looking forward to it.”

William Haggas’ Mystic Pearl has another Listed strike in her sights in the Snowdrop Fillies’ Stakes at Kempton.

The four-year-old was a winner at this level in the Coral Distaff at Sandown last year and after a Group Three placing in the Prix de Lieurey at Deauville, she headed out to Dubai for the winter.

There she was sixth in the Cape Verdi and fourth in the Balanchine, both at Group Two level, and now she steps back down in grade to start her domestic campaign on the all-weather.

“She’s back in a Listed race, like the one she won at Sandown,” said Philip Robinson, assistant racing manager for owner Sheikh Juma Dalmook Al Maktoum.

“The two races she ran in out in Meydan were both Group Twos, so we’re dropping back down in class. She worked very nicely last week, so we’re very hopeful.

“She will give a good account of herself I think, and they don’t always act when they go out there (Dubai), they either do or they don’t. I don’t think she was at her best out there, but she worked nicely the other morning anyway.”

James Ferguson’s Many Tears makes a first start for her new stable in the contest after leaving Ger Lyons on a high note.

For Lyons, she was a Listed winner at Dundalk in November when taking the Cooley Fillies Stakes, a victory that leaves her shouldering a penalty at Kempton.

Ferguson said: “She’s in great form and won a Listed race with Ger Lyons, so carries a penalty, but she seems to be training well and this is only the start of her year, so we’re hoping she runs big and we have then got the whole year ahead of us.

“She’s a nice filly and was bought by the Cunninghams to try and get some more black type in Europe, with the eventual plan to maybe be covered and then go down to Australia.”

Ferguson has another contender in the race in Mother Mary, whereas the only Irish challenger is the Joseph O’Brien-trained Adelaise.

Only beaten three-quarters of a length in the Prix Dahlia at Saint-Cloud and then two lengths in the Prix Casimir Delamarre at Longchamp, both Listed races, Adelaise is looking to gain some black type form in the Snowdrop.

O’Brien said: “She’s been a progressive filly for us last season and she has stayed in training with the hope of achieving some black type. This looks a logical starting point for her.”

Simon and Ed Crisford run Choisya in the race, a Night Of Thunder filly last seen winning over course and distance in a handicap ahead of Roger Varian’s Julia Augusta, who reopposes.

Philip McBride’s Zouky, David Menuisier’s Mysterious Love, Gemma Tutty’s in-form Enola Grey and Ed Walker’s Rose Prick complete the field of 10.

David Maxwell has been living out his dream, buying nice horses and getting to ride them himself – but it will peak when he lines up in the Randox Grand National on Ain’t That A Shame.

Like many involved in the sport, the Grand National is seen as the pinnacle to Maxwell but for a man viewed as an old-fashioned Corinthian amateur, it is a summit his family has already scaled, at least in one capacity.

The 1988 Grand National won by Rhyme ‘N’ Reason is one of the more famous ones, given how he almost fell at Becher’s Brook on the first circuit only to work his way back into contention under Brendan Powell.

For the Maxwell family, it was an emotional and stressful day, as the property developer explained: “My main Grand National memory is Rhyme ‘N’ Reason. My mother bred the horse, then my dad trained him for his first bumper wins before he went to England to be trained by David Murray Smith and latterly David Elsworth.

“I remember it like it was yesterday. He was headed in the closing stages by Durham Edition, but he was a bit of an old rogue and as soon as he hit the front, he felt like he’d done enough – and Rhyme ‘N’ Reason was as game as a badger and won by four lengths.

“The entire Maxwell family were screaming their heads off, my mother was nine months pregnant with my now 35-year-old sister. Just 10 minutes after the race, the gynaecologist was sitting next to her!

“He actually broke three bones in his hock when he almost came down at Becher’s and he never raced again but it just goes to show how game he was.”

Maxwell has come close to glory over the famous fences already, and while it was not in the National, his second place on Cat Tiger in the 2022 Foxhunters’ should at least give him some confidence down at the start.

“Cat Tiger pings round there and was second to Latenightpass in the Foxhunters’ – and of course Latenightpass is in the National this year,” said Maxwell.

“He’s not over-big but he’s very game. The Foxhunters’ is actually the only race I’ve been down at the start thinking ‘this might not actually be a good idea’, but then you get called in, do a slap down the shoulder, as much for yourself as the horse, and just get on with it.”

There has been plenty said about Maxwell’s participation in this year’s race but having met all the requirements, and after amateur Sam Waley-Cohen’s win on Noble Yeats two years ago, there is still the fairytale element to the race that no other has.

“Racing for me has been a bit of a middle-aged man obsession. I started mucking around with point-to-pointers in my late 20s, then I got a few more and got a few more and just kept going. You keep finding the next iteration of the drug,” said Maxwell.

“It starts with what turns out to be slow three-mile chasers for pointing, then someone shows you a nice hunter chaser, then it’s novice hurdlers, so there’s another stage of everything, like being allowed to ride against pros. I suppose the ultimate of it all is riding in the National.

“I don’t know if there’s anything in the theory of amateurs having a good record in it because some liken it to hunting. My theory is, if you are in the National, you can win it, all the cards are thrown in the air.”

Every year there are meetings to see what can be done to make the race safer and following last year’s disruption, racing was forced into defensive mode more than it ever has in the past, but the 45-year-old believes the right steps have been taken.

“I wouldn’t say anything can happen anymore, as they’ve made it safer to navigate with the fences and they’ve made it more and more like a really good Saturday handicap,” said Maxwell.

“With that, I mean Corach Rambler is 4-1 favourite and he never looks like not winning, it’s less and less like Foinavon could win this – but you do still get rank outsiders winning.

“This year, there are three amateurs in the race, so there’s around a nine per cent chance of an amateur winning it.

“The race has changed, you’ve got to have a touch of class now. But the world changes all the time.

“In racing, we are fond of knocking ourselves but racing has done a really good job here of making it safer. Every year, a lot of thought goes into it and this year it is no exception, with the field reduced to 34 and perhaps the best idea is making the run to the first fence shorter.

“Nobody wants to see fallers, we’re all animal lovers, so these changes make it a bit safer, there’s no point us continuing with our head in the sand.

“If we proceed thinking the world is the same as it was before – it’s not. It’s right that the Jockey Club and the BHA have made these changes to make the race safer.

“If you have a horse who is a safe conveyance and stays four miles, the likelihood is these days that you will get round – and then you get the situation where the best handicapped horse wins.”

Maxwell’s mount, trained in Ireland by Henry de Bromhead, who has won the National with Minella Times, has already won one of Ireland’s most competitive races, the Thyestes Chase.

“He’s a nice horse, I went and schooled him last week and he’s a lovely horse. He must have a reasonable chance but I’m actually looking forward to going hunter chasing with him the year after next when he’s 12,” said Maxwell.

“The Thyestes is always a good race and the fact that he didn’t go to Cheltenham must stand him in good stead too.

“It’s clearly going to be soft ground and obviously we all hope it doesn’t rain too much, but what we really would want is for it to stop raining about three days before the race, as then the ground would start becoming really hard work. If it’s just wet and sloppy, then it’s much easier to get through it.”

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