No horse has ever successfully defended the richest race run at Market Rasen Racecourse – the 188BET Summer Plate – but Alcala is aiming to do just that in front of ITV cameras.
Big crowds will descend on the Lincolnshire track on Saturday for Ladies’ Day in association with Lincs FM, which includes the £50,000 Listed steeplechase, the major summer prize in British jump racing.
Alcala triumphed in the two-mile five-furlong contest 12 months ago and is set to return from the stables of 10-time champion jumps trainer Paul Nicholls.
The valuable prize pot has certainly attracted plenty of initial entries – 22 in all – so a maximum field of 16 is very possible.
Both Paul Nicholls and Peter Bowen – the most successful trainer in the Summer Plate with five victories in the contest’s 23-year history – have a trio of potential runners.
Nicholls’ threesome includes Bagad Bihoue, who defeated stablemate Alcala last month.
The Welsh handler’s entries include last year’s runner-up Wadswick Court and the ninth-placed horse Earthmoves.
Current champion trainer Nicky Henderson could run last year’s seventh-placed Days Of Heaven, while Dan Skelton, the 2018/19 leading trainer, runs Too Many Diamonds, who is seeking a fourth consecutive victory.
Grand National-winning trainer Dr Richard Newland sent out the 2013 Summer Plate winner, and could saddle Seefood, who was runner-up over the Grand National fences at Aintree in the Grand Sefton Chase last winter.
The Listed 188BET Summer Hurdle, now worth £40,000 in prize money, has attracted a healthy 21 entries.
Hassle, trained by Dr Richard Newland, won the 188BET.co.uk Prelude Handicap Hurdle at Market Rasen last September and is aiming for a third success at the Lincolnshire venue.
Also aiming for a three-timer at Market Rasen is Scottish raider L’Inganno Felice.
Dan Skelton, successful in the Summer Plate and Summer Hurdle two years ago, aims German-bred Fair Mountain at the two-mile contest, while Captain Felix - from the Newmarket stables of James Eustace - won at Market Rasen’s last meeting this month.
Leading online bookmaker 188BET is the new sponsor of Summer Plate Ladies’ Day in association with Lincs FM.
Total prize-money at the meeting this year is up by just under 10 per cent to £143,000.
With the VIP Enclosure, VIP Picnic Experience, as well as all hospitality and the restaurant already sold out weeks in advance, and a limited number of tickets remaining for the County Enclosure, the day is set for a five-figure attendance for the first time in five years.
Tickets for the County Enclosure, as well as Tattersalls and the Lawn Enclosure, remain on sale.
Racegoers will also be well entertained following the final race, with Lincs FM hosting a live Après Racing DJ set.
Gates open at 11.35am, with the first race at 1.35pm, and finale at 5pm. The event finishes at 6.45pm.
* Advance purchase prices: the limited availability tickets for the County Enclosure are £28.80, for Tattersalls it’s £21.60 (£24 on the day) and in the Lawn Enclosure £11.70 (£13 on the day).
For more information, and tickets, visit www.marketrasenraces.co.uk