The Clarence House Chase at Ascot is going to dominate this weekend and it's easy to see why.
It is so rare to see two proper top notchers in Shishkin and Energumene take each other with their unbeaten records over fences on the line. It really does promise to be a treat. I don't have a strong betting view on the race, but like everyone else, I can't wait to see it unfold.
Shorter trip to bring out the best in Kateson
The first port of call in search of a selection is the SBK Holloway's Handicap Hurdle at Ascot (13:45). This is a very competitive contest as one would expect, but one that stands out at the prices is the Alastair Ralph-trained Kateson.
The nine-year-old finished a solid third in this race off an 8lb higher mark when trained by Tom Lacey last season. Having switched to Alastair Ralph, an unsuccessful return to chasing was followed by a solid run when third in a handicap hurdle at Aintree in December.
On his latest start, he was stepped up to just shy of three miles for a handicap hurdle at Chepstow and while he ran well enough to finish a distant second to Bells Of Peterboro, it was lack of stamina that seemed to undo him. This wasn't a surprise, as he has looked to fail to stay at around that trip on multiple occasions in the past.
There are two keys to his chance in this contest. Firstly, he is returning to a more suitable trip of just short of two-and-a-half miles. Secondly, it looks as though he could well get the lead to himself. Both those factors could well combine to see him run a big race at a double-figure price.
Murphy's charge can hunt down his rivals
Over at Haydock, the New One Unibet Hurdle (14:00) may not be the highest-class renewal of this race, but it is a fascinating contest with an interesting setup in pace terms.
Global Citizen is a habitual front runner and can usually be relied on to go an above-average pace, but he is likely to have company here in the shape of Navajo Pass. He is also a regular front runner, but the application of first-time blinkers should ensure that he will not be messing about at all.
Those two should combine to produce a strong pace and the one that this may well suit the best is the Olly Murphy-trained Hunters Call.
The 12-year-old doesn't have the typical profile of one that should be competing in a race like this, but he makes more sense when one delves into his history. Switched to Murphy in late-2017, he made the perfect start to his British career when winning a valuable handicap hurdle at Ascot. Soon after that he missed almost three years of action, but made up for lost time by continuing to steadily climb the ranks since his return.
He comes into this off the back of a career-best effort in the International Hurdle at Cheltenham in December, with him travelling like the winner (traded 1.594/7 in-running) until being outpointed close home and finishing a length third to Guard Your Dreams.
That he travelled so strongly on that occasion wasn't a surprise, as his style is to race quite freely and travel particularly strongly in his races. Such a style will be ideally suited to how this race is likely to play out, thus it wouldn't be a surprise if he can show even more improvement and get his head in front in this.