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Calipto leads powerful Nicholls team on Super Saturday card

Things did not go entirely to plan two weeks ago when Big Buck’s led a strong Paul Nicholls raiding party at Cheltenham with Lac Fontana’s last-race victory saving the day. The Ditcheat trainer has another red-letter day planned for Newbury, providing the course survives a 7am inspection.

Calipto won impressively on his hurdling debut here in November and bids to enhance his reputation in the opening race on Saturday. His victims that day included Dawalan who has gone on to win twice and Calipto could book his Triumph Hurdle ticket with victory this weekend.

Nicholls would love to win the Denman Chase at 2.25, a race named after his recently-retired Cheltenham Gold Cup winner. He is represented by King George VI Chase third Al Ferof who bids to justify his place in this year’s Gold Cup field.

The grey has not yet won over three miles and will have his stamina tested by Harry Topper and Katenko in a small but select field of five. They also hold entries for the festival feature and will not be inconvenienced by the heavy ground.

Arkle Trophy hope Dodging Bullets then puts his credentials to the test in the Grade 2 Game Spirit Chase at 3.00. Module and Raya Star are likely to be his most dangerous opponents but Paul Nicholls is confidently expecting a victory.

The Betfair Handicap Hurdle at 3.35 looks wide open but Nicholls saddles the favourite again here with the mud-loving Irish Saint. The gelding ran away with a race at Ascot in similar conditions and gets in here with just a 5lbs penalty.

That still leaves him 7lbs well in at the weights, although he did not enjoy racing in a packing field in the Ladbroke earlier in the season. Stable companion Far West is to be ridden by 5lb claimer Harry Derham and he would not be out of it on his best form.

Sam Winner holds several festival entries and he lines up against Mendip Express and Smad Place at 4.10. Promising French import As De Mee completes a big day for the Nicholls stable when he runs in the closing bumper at 4.40.