Will he, won’t he? There’s a remarkable feeling of déjà vu 12 months on from last year’s Betfair Tingle Creek (2.55pm) at Sandown Park.
Last year, Douvan was well-backed for this Grade One prize only to be rerouted to Cork’s Hilly Way Chase with his stablemate Un De Sceaux turning up here.
And the alarm bells were ringing for punters again on Wednesday when his odds suddenly started to drift dramatically.
Willie Mullins confirmed on Thursday that he hadn’t been entirely happy with his star chaser in the days leading up to the race so he wasn’t declared.
It’s a real shame that he won’t be lining up, as it would have been some sight to see him take on FOX NORTON.
Douvan’s absence now leaves the door wide open for Colin Tizzard’s inmate to record a third Grade One victory and he’s just 8/13 to do so with Ladbrokes.
A close second in the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase was followed by big wins at Aintree and Punchestown.
He looked as good as ever in November's Shloer Chase and should have too much for his six rivals on Saturday.
Tizzard was toying with the idea of stepping him up in trip, but he will be pleased he decided this route with Altior on the sidelines and Douvan yet to reappear.
There isn’t much strength in depth in the two mile chasing division and Tizzard will be hoping his charge can take this before going on to success at the Festival in March.
The biggest threat to Fox Norton is undoubtedly POLITOLOGUE following his win in the Haldon Gold Cup.
Paul Nicholls has always loved this grey son of Poliglote and he was desperately unlucky not to win the Grade One novice chase at Aintree in April.
He was about to collect that day before stumbling badly at the last and coming down.
His jumping is normally very good and he has the potential to be a real star of the future, although Fox Norton has been there and done it at the highest level.
If there is one horse in this field who could cause a big upset, I think it could be Gary Moore’s AR MAD.
Moore’s fragile seven-year-old wasn’t beaten far into fourth in this race 12 months ago, showing once again his love of Sandown.
He enjoys attacking his fences and if the others leave him to it, he could just slip the field.
However, he was pulled up on his reappearance behind Politologue and it takes a big leap of faith to think he could see off the favourite on just his second start in a year.
Charbel had some good form as a novice and shouldn’t be too far away, but this looks too tough for the likes of San Benedeto, Sir Valentino and Ordinary World.
Fox Norton should win well, but we’re not going to get rich backing him so the bet of the day is CROSSED MY MIND in the December Handicap Hurdle (2.20pm).
Arthur Moore doesn’t send over many horses to the UK these days, but it should always be noticed when he does.
The five-year-old ran respectably in a big field handicap at the Punchestown Festival in April before finishing an excellent third at Down Royal on his seasonal reappearance.
The winner of that race followed up at Punchestown, so the form is strong, and Barry Geraghty was jocked up to ride on Thursday.
We won’t know the final field until later this morning, but he’s due to carry just 10st 4lbs, which is Geraghty’s minimum riding weight.
Enough said, he should go close.
My final selection at Sandown is BRAIN POWER in the Henry VIII Novices' Chase (1.45pm).
He made a winning debut over fences at Kempton last month, earning a quote of 8/1 for the Arkle in the process, and is expected to take another step towards Cheltenham with a good win here.
He’s only 4/5 for this race, but I’m banking on him to show us exactly why.
There is some great racing at Aintree on Saturday as well, so Jockey Club Racecourses should be congratulated for thinking outside the box and running a ‘Double-Header’.
All the races and commentary at Aintree will be showed at Sandown and vice versa, while all 14 races will appear in the racecard at both courses.
Plenty of action to get stuck into.
POINTERS - SATURDAY
Brain Power 1.45pm Sandown
Crossed My Mind e/w 2.20pm Sandown