The recently retired Nigel Twiston-Davies trained hurdler The New One won Saturday’s Haydock Champion Hurdle Trial four years on the spin 2015-18 inc and the Grade 2 contest will be named in his honour this weekend.
Nicky Henderson looks likely to saddle last month’s Cheltenham International Hurdle winner Brain Power (5/2 with BetVictor) at the weekend as he bids to cement his place in the Champion Hurdle field for which he is priced at 14/1 with BetVictor. Henderson has no fewer than six of the 27 entries for the opening day feature which were published yesterday.
Three similar flat right-hand tracks stage jump racing this afternoon and we start at Market Rasen where I hope to see Garretstown (12.30) land the opener for Olly Murphy and Aidan Coleman. The selection won his sole bumper on heavy ground at Chepstow back in the spring and has run well in defeat in both starts over timber including when finishing runner up over 2m 4f at Carlisle last time.
Alan King’s Deyrann De Carjac must give the selection 6lbs but looks sure to continue to run well having finished runner up at Wincanton on Boxing Day.
I am convinced Fergal O’Brien’s Ballyhome (1.00) remains fairly treated and I hope talented conditional Conor Brace rides the horse a bit more conservatively than was the case at Haydock last time over today’s 2m 7f trip. That effort was on soft ground and the hope is that today’s slightly better surface helps preserve the gelding’s stamina.
Lisdoonvarna Lad (2.05) was below par in a better race than this at Kempton on Boxing Day – form working out very well – but he has been dropped 4lbs for that effort and would have every chance if reproducing the form of his earlier fourth here over an additional couple of furlongs. Brian Hughes rode the winner over hurdles last season and keeps the ride having been in the plate last time.
At Ludlow Humble Hero (12.40) can go one better than when runner up to a decent sort at Leicester on his hurdles debut for Dan Skelton. The selection became frustrating on the level for William Haggas but is entitled to come on for his first start over timber.
Skelton also saddles Gortroe Joe (2.15) who shaped with considerable promise when third on his chase debut at Ascot last month. This step up in trip to 2m 4f promises to suit although she has raced three times at Ludlow in the past over timber and finished 4th, 4th and 2nd at odds of 8/13, 2/1 and 2/1. I hope compensation awaits.
Beeves is likely to be all the rage for the Hunter Chase, but I feel Irish raider Marinero (3.35) may be the one with David Maxwell in the saddle. The selection won at Ascot back in March and he does receive 4lbs from Beeves who is also two years his senior.
The Somerset National is the feature race at Wincanton and a 4lbs rise for Garrane (2.25) finishing runner up to subsequent winner The Two Amigos at Exeter last time is fair. Garrane is certainly not the luckiest horse in training as he was previously second to Glen Forza at Chepstow and Mick Channon’s horse is now rated 24lbs higher after another fluent win at Kempton.
Theatre Territory is one of my favourite horses in training, but I am not convinced a near three-and-a-quarter mile trip is her optimum trip and preference is for Molly Childers (3.00) in a fascinating three-runner Mares’ event.
It hasn’t been a great week for Tom O’Brien, but I hope things get better courtesy of Cracking Destiny (3.30) who snatched defeat from the jaws of victory at Bangor last time. He may have his quirks, but he has ability and he can go one better although he is likely to be played very late.
At Meydan I am going to give Key Victory (5.25) another chance after failing to fire on week one of the Carnival a fortnight ago for Charlie Appleby. The drop back to a mile is a slight concern, but I hope to see James Doyle make plenty of use of the top-weight from a decent draw.