Fox Appeal is set to put his Arkle ambitions on the line at Doncaster this afternoon.
The Fontwell favourite, who has won once and placed twice in three memorable visits to West Sussex, will line up in the Grade 2 Lightning Novices’ Chase (12.55pm).
Emma Lavelle’s charge will face former Champion Hurdle winner Rock On Ruby in the £30,000 scrap over an extended two-mile trip.
And with Harry Fry’s talent among the leading contenders for the Arkle at the Cheltenham Festival in March, the battle is a major examination of Fox Appeal’s own ambitions for the Grade 1 at Prestbury Park.
After claiming glory in the Grade 2 Betfred Novices’ Chase at Ascot last month, Hampshire trainer Lavelle was confident her ace could drop back to the minimum trip.
This afternoon’s showdown will put that theory to the test, with Alan King’s hope, Valdez, also in the six-horse field.
Rock On Ruby is 10/1 for the Arkle, while Valdez is 16s.
Fox Appeal is as big as 33/1 in the ante-post market for the two-miler at Cheltenham.
But those odds will plummet should the 149-rated chaser give his two major rivals a scare at Doncaster.
Pulborough jockey Leighton Aspell, who steered Fox Appeal to a one-length second to Paul Nicholls’ Wonderful Charm at Wincanton in November, is in the saddle.
Rock On Ruby has won his only start over fences, while the 152-rated Valdez is unbeaten in two efforts.
Fox Appeal heads a raft of impressive Fontwell performers set to race in the next week.
Charles Egerton’s Seedling is pencilled in for the Crystal Services Novices’ Hurdle at Plumpton on Monday (2pm) – alongside Gary Moore’s Justification.
Third Act, who hails from the yard of Colin Tizzard, has an entry in the bumper (4.30pm).
And Muhtaris, a fine winner at Fontwell last month, is in Ludlow’s Bull Ring Juvenile Hurdle on Wednesday (2.40pm).