Dodging Bullets ready to fire
View from connections ahead of the 188Bet Haldon Gold Cup at Exeter on Tuesday.
Dodging Bullets won't lack for fitness
Paul Nicholls is confident Dodging Bullets is fit enough to do himself justice in the 188Bet Haldon Gold Cup at Exeter on Tuesday.
The eight-year-old completed a hat-trick of Grade One victories when claiming Queen Mother Champion Chase glory at last year's Cheltenham Festival, but last season was not as successful.
Dodging Bullets was beaten on his belated comeback at Newbury in February before he failed to lay a glove on the resurgent Sprinter Sacre at Cheltenham or in the Celebration Chase at Sandown.
He has to concede almost a stone all round in what is his first ever handicap start over jumps, but the champion trainer is hopeful of a bold show.
"He's in good shape. He's a lot fitter than he was on his first run last season at Newbury and he'll be running on better ground," said Nicholls.
"He's carrying top weight in a handicap, but he's a Champion Chase winner and must have a chance.
"It's a prep run for the rest of the season and he probably wants a bit further now, which is why we're running him on a stiff track like Exeter.
"We'll step him up in trip after this, but we have a good strike-rate with our first-time-out horses and he won't lack for fitness, I can assure you."
Garde La Victoire returns to jumping fences following a confidence-boosting victory in the Welsh Champion Hurdle less than three weeks ago.
The Philip Hobbs-trained seven-year-old fell on his final two starts of last season at Cheltenham and Aintree, but champion jockey Richard Johnson is hopeful his mount can reignite his chasing career.
Johnson said: "It was great to get him back on the winning trail at Ffos Las and I thought it was good performance.
"He's schooled over fences again since and schooled well. The first time he fell in Cheltenham he just over-jumped more than anything.
"It's never ideal to have fallen twice over fences in succession, but he seems in good form. It's a lovely place to start again and we'll keep our fingers crossed.
"Dodging Bullets is a Champion Chase winner, so he's the one we've all got to beat, but it is a handicap and hopefully our horse has a great chance."
Presenting Arms has been on the go all summer, placing six times since last striking gold at Doncaster in March.
Trainer Harry Fry had planned to give his charge a winter break after his narrow defeat at Cheltenham a week and a half ago, but has decided to go the well once more with the ground still on the fast side of good.
"He stayed on really well at Cheltenham the other day and seems to have come out of it well," said Fry.
"We're running again mainly because he has his conditions.
"You'd never have thought in a million years you'd get good, good to firm in places ground on November 1, but that's the way it is and we've decided to let him take his chance.
"He's gone up another 3lb for running so well at Cheltenham, but he gets in off a light weight and hopefully he'll run another solid race."
Tom George saddles Sir Valentino, while Pain Au Chocolat represents Dan Skelton.
Dresden, Ultragold and Purple 'N Gold complete the eight-strong field.
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