In Contrast, a mammoth gamble from 16-1 down to 6-1, is the big tip to win a wide open Tote Gold Trophy on Saturday at Newbury, where a high class card is sure to throw up stacks of pointers for next month’s Cheltenham Festival.

Trainer Philip Hobbs has always held In Contrast in high esteem and said at the Grand National weights lunch inLondon earlier this week that he believes his seven-year-old will take all the beating, provided the ground does not become too soft.

“He has been well backed, and rightly so, I guess, as he was one of the best novices last season,” said Hobbs, who has been eyeing this valuable event for some time.

In Contrast, at his best when galloping left-handed on tracks like Newbury, finished third to Like-A-Butterfly in last season’s Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham. His latest run there is best ignored as the race was run at a crawl.

Nicky Henderson, successful in three of the last five Tote Gold Trophies with Sharpical, Geos and Landing Light, plays another strong hand with Chauvinist, Regal Exit and Non So.

Paul Nicholls has warned that Cenkos will improve for his race in the Game Spirit Chase. “We’ve left plenty to work on, but he’s very well,” said Nicholls, adding: “We want him at his peak for the Queen Mother Champion Chase next month.”

BeefOr Salmon, Ireland’s rising star of the chasing world, will come under the microscope at Leopardstown on Sunday in the Irish Hennessy Gold Cup.

The Michael Hourigan-trained seven-year-old, unbeaten in three over fences, won the Ericsson Chase over the course at Christmas and will be a very serious Gold Cup threat to Best Mate if he makes it four out of four.

Champion flat jockey Kieren Fallon returns to action at Lingfield on Saturday after spending 30 days in an Irish clinic with a drink problem. His only ride is Shami for Sheikh Mohammed.