Nube Negra can follow up his impressive seasonal reappearance by landing the first Grade 1 of his career in the Betfair Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown on Saturday.
Dan Skelton’s seven-year-old does not have the usual backstory of a classy 3200m chaser, coming as he did from Spain, but he has proved already he is right up there with the best around.
He was arguably an unlucky loser in the Champion Chase in March having stumbled at the final fence and only going down by 0.50 lengths to Put The Kettle On.
His effort at Punchestown after that is easy to forgive as he had been trained specifically for Cheltenham and was probably over the top by then.
While he was a smart novice, it was his defeat of Altior last Christmas that made people sit up and take notice.
All the post-race talk centred on Altior not being the force of old, but that was disrespectful to the winner, who never looked in any danger.
It was a similar story in the Shloer Chase on his comeback, with multiple Grade One winner Politologue and current champion Put The Kettle On left trailing in his wake.
Skelton could not have dreamed that conditions would be so much in his favour in December and while this race was probably not on the agenda originally, with Shishkin sidestepping it is very winnable given the only time Chacun Pour Soi has raced outside of Ireland he was beaten.
Skelton should also be celebrating after the Close Brothers Henry VIII Novices’ Chase with Third Time Lucki.
Hugely impressive on his chasing debut at Cheltenham in October, he perhaps was not quite as devastating when he returned in November.
Skelton has suggested he would keep Third Time Lucki very fresh and while this comes just three weeks later, his deadly jumping should make him hard to beat.
Salty Boy is a rare staying chaser in that he prefers good ground which makes him of interest in the Betfair Exchange London National.
Trained by David Bridgwater, who could do with another good one after sadly losing The Conditional last year, Salty Boy gained his first win over fences last time out in the Southern National.
He only hit top gear late on there so the extra furlong here should be right up his street.
Skelton has high hopes in the Unibet Mancy Clouds Chase at Aintree with Protektorat as he steps into graded company – but he might be worth taking on.
While strictly on the figures Kim Bailey’s Imperial Aura cannot win, and he has failed to finish his last three races, he travelled through three-quarters of the Betfair Chase like he was on good terms with himself.
Unfortunately he fell just as the race began in earnest, although the upside of that is he did not give himself a hard race against A Plus Tard and should still be fresh.
Top Ville Ben was a little outclassed in the Charlie Hall at Wetherby but his bold-jumping front-running style should make him the perfect fit for the National fences in the Unibet Becher Chase.
Phil Kirby’s nine-year-old has finally been allowed some respite from the handicapper and these fences could just rejuvenate a once-promising career.
David Pipe’s Martinhal has conditions in his favour in the Unibet – 2021 Horserace Betting Operator Of The Year Handicap Hurdle.
He probably will not be seen at his very best until he sees a fence but Pipe must think his handicap mark is workable.
Willie Mullins’ Elimay should take all the beating in the Unibet Houghton Mares’ Chase, saved over from Carlisle’s abandoned card on Sunday.
At Chepstow Ask Me Early can tee himself up for the Welsh National by defying a penalty in the Play The Coral ‘Racing Super Series’ Novices’ Hurdle.
Harry Fry’s grey should prove a cut above his rivals ahead of his return to Monmouthshire over Christmas. – Press Association
TAB is betting on 5 UK race meetings today. Here are the tips:
AINTREE: Race 1: 13.15 Richmond Lake, Race 2: 13.45 Grangeclare Glory, Race 3: 14.20 Elimay, Race 4: 14.55 Galahad Quest, Race 5: 15.30 Malakahna, Race 6: 16.05 Imperial Aura, Race 7: 16.40 Top Ville Ben, Race 8: 17.15 Martinhal.
CHEPSTOW: Race 1: 13.38 Ask Me Early, Race 2: 14.12 Shaman Du Berlais, Race 3: 14.47 Take Your Time, Race 4: 15.22 St Barts, Race 5: 15.57 Mario De Pail, Race 6: 16.32 Iberio, Race 7: 17.09 Hurricane Deal, Race 8: 17.45 Deere Mark.
WETHERBY: Race 1: 13.52 Hillcrest, Race 2: 14.27 Little Orange, Race 3: 15.02 Mister Sweets, Race 4: 15.37 Castle Robin, Race 5: 16.12 No Risk Des Flos, Race 6: 16.47 Sidi Ismael, Race 7: 17.22 Chic Avenue.
SANDOWN: Race 1: 14.05 Might I, Race 2: 14.40 Fable, Race 3: 15.15 Flat White, Race 4: 15.50 Third Time Lucki, Race 5: 16.25 NUBE NEGRA (NAP), Race 6: 17.00 Salty Boy, Race 7: 17.35 Navajo Pass.
WOLVERHMAPTON: Race 1: 18.00 Critical Thinking, Race 2: 18.30 Homeric, Race 3: 19.00 Dynamic Force, Race 4: 19.30 Politics, Race 5: 20.00 King Of The South, Race 6: 20.30 Lost Gold, Race 7: 21.00 Just In Time.
ALL TO COME: Imperial Aura (Aintree, Race 6) and Nube Negra (Sandown, Race 5).
For fields, Race betting and more information go to www.tabonline.co.za