The £32,000 Towton Novices’ Chase is one of the highlights of Wetherby’s NH calendar. First staged in 1996, the three-mile contest was won that day by the subsequent Cheltenham Gold Cup victor Mr Mulligan.
Noel Chance's Mr Mulligan was an emphatic 15-length winner in that very first running of the race. The following season he went to win The Cheltenham Gold Cup.
Escartefigue, the winner in 1998, became one of the leading staying chasers, and finished second to Teeton Mill in the 1998 King George VI Chase.
2006 winner Halcon Genelardais went on to win the Welsh Grand National later in his career for Alan King.
All eyes will be on the result of this race on Saturday as it often produces potential stars that contest races like the RSA Chase, the Cheltenham Gold Cup and the Aintree Grand National as they progress through their chasing careers.
Two seasons ago this race was won by Blaklion, trained by Nigel Twiston-Davies, who then went on to win the Grade One RSA Chase at the Cheltenham Festival.
This season he won the Becher Chase and is now the 2018 Grand National favourite, proving that good horses regularly come out of this race.
Horses to note:
Trainer Nigel Hawke has had this race pencilled in for his six-year-old since the mare made a winning debut over fences at Wincanton on Boxing Day.
Hawke is well aware he is throwing her in at the deep end but he is looking to gauge just how good she is as he sees plenty of potential in her.
Nicky Henderson's French import Terrefort made a successful British debut at Huntingdon earlier this month.
However, the five-year-old is also entered in the Scilly Isles Novices' Chase at Sandown on the same afternoon so it will be prudent to keep an eye on the declarations nearer the race.
A smart novice hurdler last season, the seven-year-old took his win count over the bigger obstacles to two when landing a Grade Two at Doncaster before Christmas.
He finished seventh in the Neptune Investment Management Novices' Hurdle last year and his trainer Warren Greatrex is eager to get this Wetherby run into him before another assault upon Cheltenham next month.
Vintage Clouds, who was fourth in last month’s Welsh Grand National after being hampered at a crucial stage is an interesting contender for Sue Smith.
The eight-year-old also received a Grand National entry this week so the stable will be looking for a bold showing on Saturday to beef up his April prospects.
As we are all aware, owner Trevor Hemmings loves a National runner.
The Nigel Twiston-Davies eight-year-old fell on his only previous visit to the West Yorkshire track when going off the strong favourite for the Bet365 Hurdle.
We last saw him run in the Kauto Star Novices’ Chase where he finished a distant fourth behind Black Corton.
The ability is certain there with this horse as he showed when winning at Exeter last November against a couple of runners he renews rivalry with on Saturday.
Ami Desbois was last seen in the Dipper Novices’ Chase when he was pulled up after Paddy Brennan reported the eight-year-old was making a noise.
Having won his first two novice chases at Wetherby it was disappointing for all concerned to see him put in that lacklustre display.
Graeme McPherson has said he is now in fine fettle at home and they are very optimistic for Ami Desbois chances on Saturday, especially as the gelding is a three time winner at the track already.
Fergal O'Brien has had high hopes for this eight year old ever since he won the EBF Finals at Cheltenham.
He had a comfortable fifteen-length victory in a three runner race at Market Rasen just before Christmas and he is clearly in good heart again over fences, despite being luckless on some occasions.
The six-year-old got the better of multiple winner Black Corton when taking the Grade Two John Francome Novices' Chase at the start of December after finishing second on his two previous attempts over fences.
Black Corton exacted his revenge on Elegant Escape on Boxing Day in the Kauto Star Novices’ Chase but it was another performance to be proud of and he looks a big player here.
The Tizzard team will be extremely buoyant going into this feature race after recording several winners this week.
Dan Skelton’s seven-year-old has won his last two novices chases, admittedly against two small fields with the Aintree victory looking the stronger form of the two.
It will be a different kettle of fish against a stronger and larger field on Saturday but he looks a better jumper this season and will be hoping to get much further than last year’s sixth fence exit in this very same race.
Baywing sprang a 33/1 surprise in this race last year but the chances of lightening striking twice are pretty unlikely with some useful novices heading the market this year.
Colin Tizzard’s Elegant Escape has yet to run a poor race this season and should run another solid one again on Saturday.
Given the form of the yard this week, the gelding looks the percentage call.
888sport suggests: Elegant Escape (nap) Vintage Clouds (nb).