Raymond Tusk headlines a quality line up for the £19,000 Betway Conditions Stakes (5.50pm, five runners), the centrepiece of a seven-race card at Wolverhampton on Monday.
The Tapeta contest, run over an extended two miles, is a Fast-Track Qualifier and guarantees the winner a free start in the £150,000 Betway All-Weather Marathon Championship over two miles at Lingfield Park on Finals Day, Good Friday, April 10.
Raymond Tusk (Richard Hannon/Richard Kingscote), a G2 scorer in Italy in 2018, is going for back-to-back successes after gamely repelling Funny Kid (Christophe Ferland FR/Maxime Guyon) by half a length in a Fast-Track Qualifier over this distance at Newcastle on December 14.
That victory rounded off an excellent 2019 campaign for Raymond Tusk, which saw him hit the frame in G3 contests at Ascot and Newbury in the spring before a fast-finishing fourth in the very valuable Ebor Handicap at York in August.
Raymond Tusk was not disgraced in the Melbourne Cup in November, coming home 16th, and another international foray could be on the horizon prior to a tilt at the Betway All-Weather Marathon Championship on Finals Day.
Tim Palin of Middleham Park Racing said today: "We had a decision to make about whether we put Raymond Tusk away for Finals Day or have a look at the big staying handicap in Saudi Arabia at the end of February beforehand.
"We have entered him for Saudi Arabia, but we have not seen the entries yet, and with it being the inaugural running we don't quite know what the race is going to look like. We are keen to run but without seeing the entries we do not want to commit to anything yet.
"We thought that if we are keeping him on the go with that in mind, he would either have to do a gallop at home in three or four weeks' time or alternatively we can keep his fitness topped up on the All-Weather and hopefully earn a bit of prize money in the process.
"If ultimately we decide not to go to Riyadh, then we can still give him a little rest after Monday in preparation for Finals Day. Essentially, all roads lead to Finals Day, either via Riyadh or straight there depending on what the race in Riyadh ends up looking like.
"I think on weights and measures, he is the one to beat on Monday. His usual pilots - Jamie Spencer and Tom Marquand - are not around at the moment, but Richard Kingscote takes over and he is fabulous around Wolverhampton. He always seems to get the fractions right and I would imagine that is what we will try to do on Monday."
Raymond Tusk (far side) beating Funny Kid at Newcastle, picture All Weather Championships
French challenger Funny Kid has a good record on these shores and was narrowly beaten in this race in 2018, before going on to land the Betway All-Weather Marathon Championship on Good Friday.
Trainer Alan King is represented by the in-form Rainbow Dreamer (Hollie Doyle) and Scarlet Dragon (Tom Queally). Rainbow Dreamer is on a three-timer following a pair of two-mile handicap success at Kempton Park, most recently on January 4, while G3 runner-up Scarlet Dragon encountered trouble in running on his latest start when a staying-on fourth in a 12-furlong handicap at Lingfield Park on December 21.
The five runners are completed by Deal A Dollar (David Simcock/Callum Shepherd), who steps up in trip after finishing third in a valuable 14-furlong handicap at Chelmsford City on December 13.
Monday's seven-race card at Wolverhampton runs from 4.20pm to 7.20pm.