The Haldon Gold Cup is the biggest race in the calendar at Exeter and one of the early season highlights of the jumps season. Racing Post tipster Graeme Rodway gives his bets.
The 'Future Stars' Silver Bowl Novices' Chase (2.55) threw up subsequent Gold Cup winner Native River in 2015 and it looks like it could live up to its name once again this season because STAY AWAY FAY and Grey Dawning are two of the most exciting novices in Britain.
Ready preference is for last season's Albert Bartlett winner Stay Away Fay, who won his only point-to-point in Ireland and looks likely to be better over fences than he was over hurdles.
Stay Away Fay sets the standard on hurdles form anyway, so a clear round should suffice, and Nicholls has his string in better form than Grey Dawning's trainer Dan Skelton. The Skelton runners look to be short of their peak and some stopped alarmingly at Warwick this week.
That has to be a concern for Grey Dawning and Stay Away Fay is far better than anything else in the line-up. It will be disappointing if he can't take this opportunity on his chase bow.
Nicholls always lines one up for the feature Haldon Gold Cup Handicap Chase (3.30) and Solo is his representative this season. However, it might be Nicholls' former rider who thwarts his challenge because Joe Tizzard saddles a couple in WAR LORD and Elixir De Nutz.
War Lord is 5lb out of the handicap, but Brendan Powell prefers him to Elixir De Nutz, who he has partnered on his last eight starts, and that is enough to convince me to back War Lord.
The eight-year-old is 4lb lower than when third behind Greaneteen in this race last year following an abysmal campaign afterwards, but he has reportedly had a wind problem and Tizzard has given him surgery over the summer. That might bring War Lord back to his best.
He loves soft ground, so has his conditions, and was due to run at Wetherby last Friday before the meeting was cancelled. He was clearly thought ready to return there, so should be even fitter with another week behind him, and the 214-day absence shouldn't be any concern.
The 'Challenger' Stayers' Handicap Chase (4.00) is an open race and that makes it appealing from a punting perspective. MAKE ME A BELIEVER might be the one to be on for David Pipe, who had a couple of near-misses at Chepstow and Warwick this week and is finding form.
Make Me A Believer had smart form as a novice hurdler but problems, both physically and with his wind, have caught up with him since and he ran just three times in chases last season.
However, he ran his best race of the season first time out, after a 685-day absence, at this course last December following wind surgery and could do the same now back here again.
Make Me A Believer comes here following his third wind operation, racing off a mark 10lb lower than for that good run at the track last season, and he is still unexposed and open to plenty of further improvement as a chaser. This might be the day to catch him after a break.
This article was written by a partner sports writer via Spotlight Sports Group. All odds displayed on this page were correct at the time of writing and are subject to withdrawal or change at any time.