Pinch yourself punters.
There are just three weeks remaining until Cheltenham fever sweeps the country – nay globe – once more.
This weekend sees one of the last chances for names to make a final statement ahead of the trip to Gloucestershire in mid-March.
With race cards at Kempton and Newcastle in mind on Saturday, two Handicap Chases stand out from the crowd.
As the Group 1 Coral Trophy Chase at Kempton headlines, the Vertem Eider then plays a more than able role as support act.
So, as we continue our build-up to Cheltenham, here are our four weekend punts.
15:00, Kempton, Coral Trophy Handicap Chase (Group 1, 3m, 5yo+)
In arguably the big race of the weekend, the Coral Trophy Handicap Chase in Surrey sees three front-runners already penned in for the Ultima at Cheltenham.
However, one name yet to confirm his trip to the festival is Cap Du Nord.
Having only recently made his debut at Cheltenham, Jack Tudor rode the somewhat startled 10yo home in flat last on New Years’ Day.
A sizeable setback, yes, but the duos’ last two outings together have been significantly improved.
With a runners-up spot behind Cooper’s Cross – also racing here – in the SkyBet Handicap at Doncaster last month, Cap Du Nord then won impressively last weekend at Ascot.
A seven-length winner in the Swinley, the French gelding also comes into this as defending champ.
So can Cap make it back-to-back wins on successive weekends?
A 5/1 shot with Coral and Ladbrokes looks a good bet and it could also provide vital prep if the expected journey to Cheltenham emerges.
Elsewhere in the going, we noted the three front-runners present here and of the trio set to go in the festival curtain-raiser, Our Power is pricking up our ears.
Though this will be the first outing of the season for Sam Thomas’ gelding, the 8yo wrapped up last term in glowing fashion with Charlie Deutsch in the saddle.
Winning the London Gold Cup at the end of October, Sam Twiston-Davies rode Our Power to a memorable win in the PaddyPower Silver Plate on this very same course.
Could Our Power muscle his way to a second win at Kempton and an eighth career win?
An 8/1 price with BoyleSports says yes.
15:25, Newcastle, Vertem Eider Handicap Chase (Group 2, 4m1½f, 5yo+)
Around 25 minutes afterwards, we switch north to Newcastle for a step down in class for the Vertem Eider but a contest which looks just as appealing for punters.
Whilst most of the pre-Cheltenham field have assembled south of London, the in-form Eva’s Oskar has opted to stand out from the crowd here.
An 8/1 winner of the Dahlbury at Cheltenham at the end of last year, the 9yo was unfortunate not to have had two wins up the hill having been beaten by Does He Know in the race prior.
Sixth in at Sandown earlier this month but set for the Ultima also, Eva’s Oskar looks a very decent 9/1 with bet365.
In the same race and for a slightly bigger price, we have also got our eye on Houston Texas.
Winless in three, the Irish son of Dylan Thomas book-ended last season and the new term with wins at Carlisle at short odds.
Rather going against the argument, in four previous forays to Newcastle, Houston Texas has yet to pick up a win.
Yet, trainer Nicky Richards saw his own Aubis Walk absolutely bolt up to a 23-length romp a short trip away at Sedgefield on Thursday.
Visibly bullish of the chances of another winner to come this weekend, eagle-eyed watchers of Sky Sports Racing may have noted a cause for optimism.
Here, Richards’ horse is bigger 16/1 punt with William Hill but with more than a hint of form to come.