Samakaan is going for Gold.
SAMAKAAN can take another step to making his mark as a chaser under the guidance of Hereford trainer Venetia Williams by returning to the scene of his biggest win yet, Cheltenham for the Tripleprint Gold Cup on Saturday.
The Aga Khan bred son of Darshaan out of a daughter of Blushing Groom was no mean hurdler but taking on the major obstacles was always thought to eventually be his forte.
And this certainly appeared to be the case last term when the only defeat in his novice campaign of five outings came at the end when finding conceding 12lb to the well-rated Jungli a little too much in the Red Rum Chase at Aintree on Grand National Day.
Previously he had trounced his rivals for the Grand Annual Challenge Handicap Chase at the Festival an effort which may have just taken the edge off his efforts at Aintree.
He is now refreshed, fighting fit and while lacking a little in the experience of some of his rivals he has the encouragement of being on a very lowly mark in the weights and very important is his proved ability to have mastered the stern Prestbury Park country.
With Arthur Moore supplying four of the nine Irish entries, headed by the promising Native Penmanship, suggests that his selected is the likely danger.
Another titbit here will be Hors La Loi 111's Bula Hurdle return to action in a manner to suggest that he can go on to be an even bigger threat to Istabraq's domination of the Champion Hurdle after having got to within four lengths of the great Irish champion last time.
Unfortunately after going on to be a costly and weary fourth in the Aintree Hurdle, Paul Green's five-year-old was found to have burst a blood vessel.
Moved from Francois Doumen's yard to the care of James Fanshawe fingers are now firmly crossed that this fine young prospect will not suffer a recurrence of the problem and the rest and patience lavished on him by his new Newmarket master and staff has worked the oracle.
His recent work has been full of fire and he has scoped twice and proved clean. Fresh he can now suggest that he could well add to Fanshawe's 1992 Champion triumph with Royal Gait.
Staying with the leading hurdlers it is surely significant that Paul Nicholls is aiming Mister Banjo at the Lonesome Glory Hurdle here rather than the more ambitious target of a trip to Ireland a day after for the Hatton's Grace Hurdle.
STAR BETS: Tomorrow: Ayr: 12.55 Ballinclay King, 1.25 L Perratt's sel, 2.25 Tom's River, 2.55 Hailstorm, 3.25 Venture To Fly. Fakenham :1.15 Jokers Charm, 1.45 Kadarann, 2.15 Lord Cyprus, 2 45 Red Hot Indian. Southwell: 1.5 Mrs Tiggywinkle, 1.35 Robin Sharp, 2.35 Polar Lady, 3.35 Indian Dance.
Tuesday: Wolverhampton: 1.10 Gemtastic, 1.40 Simply Sensational 2.10 Makarim, 2.40 Santandre. Fontwell: 1.0 Polish Baron, 1.30 Carandrew, 2.30 Romero, 3.0 Forest Jump. Sedgefield: 12.50 Bay Magic, 1.20 Thegift, 1.50 Bannerman, 2.50 Red Emperor, 3.20 Canon McCarthy.
Wednesday: Leicester: 1.0 Sister Superior, 1.30 Mighty Kilcash, 2.0 High Sun, 3.0 Channabrlie. Hexham: 1.20 What A Wonder, 1.50 Blue Moon, 2.20 Fireside Girl, 3.20 Konker. Lingfield: 1.10 Dear Pickles, 1.40 Gilds, 2.40 Crimson Tide, 3.40 First Venture.
Friday: Cheltenham: Lord Noelie, Behrajan.
Saturday: Cheltenham: Samakaan, Hors La Loi III, Mister Banjo, Direct Route. Linfield: Bilboa, Behrajan.
Just when I was pondering the thought that Brian Rothwell's Smudger Smith could point to his being a likely young recruit to timber ready to jump into the big-time by making three from three in the Grade 2 Summit Junior Hurdle on the Lingfield card comes the news that Doumenis intent on maintaining his strong winning connection with the event with Bilboa.
The Frenchman, who likes nothing better than to come over and lift some of our plum prizes, has hit the target for the last two years following his win with Hors La Loi II with grand Seigneur 12 months ago and is now fancying Bilboa to not only complete the hat-trick but also go on to add to his Triumph Hurdle victory with Snow Drop last March.
Bilboa has already won the Prix General de Saint-Didierat Enghan as did Snow Drop and after Lingfield she will be rested until the end of January and then follow the same programme as her stablemate to the Festival.
On Friday's Cheltenham card Henrietta Knight's Lord Noellie can show his liking for the course with a crack at the pounds 40,000 Chubb Fire Chase. The winner of the Royal Sun Alliance Chase passed up the chance of taking in the Hennessy Gold Cup because of the soft going.
Connections are keen for him to go into action for he has had only five races over fences.
Then take particular note of which target Henry Daly's Behrajan takes when he sets out to stay unbeaten over fences. He is in the Ian Williams' Owners Novice's Chase at Cheltenham or the Grade 2 Novices Chase at Lingfield a day later.
A banker for the right start to the week is Ballinclay King in the opening Newton Stewart Novices' Chase at Ayr tomorrow . Trainer Ferdy Murphy rates him a serious challenger for Arkle honours come the Festival and if this is to be the case then he must surely be equal to making his trip Across the Border worthwhile.
CLASS...Venetia Williams, trainer of Samakaan