The Triumph Hurdle winner Pentland Hills – trained by Nicky Henderson – is 6/4 market leader with BetVictor for Haydock’s Champion Hurdle Trial on Saturday. The Festival winner is 6lbs better off in the weights with stablemate Call Me Lord – 3/1 with BetVictor – who beat Pentland Hills by 5L on the latter’s seasonal debut at Cheltenham last month.
It is well documented that five-year-olds don’t have a great record in the Champion Hurdle but the ill-fated Espoir d’Allen bucked that trend in 2019. Pentland Hills is 7/1 with BetVictor for the feature race on the opening day of the Festival in March and, if he settles better than was the case on his reappearance, he will be very hard to beat this weekend.
There is a decent midweek card at Newbury this afternoon and in the Novices’ Hurdle Shakem Up’Arry – owned by BetVictor brand ambassador Harry Redknapp – will have his supporters as he attempts to go one better than when runner up over today’s C&D last month. The horse who won the race – Mister Coffey – is trained by Henderson and the Lambourn handler should know where he stands with Shishkin (1.15) who only got as far as the second on his hurdles debut here last month when backed as if defeat was out of the question.
The selection was a winner between the flags and also landed a Kempton Bumper when he made all in the manner of a very decent prospect. Note Henderson has saddled the winner of this corresponding race twice in the last three years.
Moonlighter has unseated his jockey in two of his three starts over the larger obstacles and a clear round might be the primary objective this afternoon. He is not one to give up on completely although he only got as far as the third when behind Precious Cargo (1.45) at Haydock last time and the winner is taken to confirm the form.
The selection – another Henderson inmate – jumped well in the main on his chase debut and he is running from a mark of 140 this afternoon. He had his wind tweaked in the summer after he finished down the field at Aintree in the spring, but he went off just 4/1 for that Grade 1 contest and is an exciting novice chaser who might, in time, be better than a handicapper.
In the 1st division of the 2m handicap hurdle Generation Gap (2.20) drops back in trip having looked a threat going to two out before his stamina, seemingly, gave way over an extended 2m 3f when last seen seven weeks ago at Wetherby. Jonjo O’Neill’s 6-year-old reverts to the minimum trip and the winner of that contest – Thomas McDonagh – is now rated 20lbs higher in the weights.
Django Django is a horse I have a lot of time for and he has the scope to make his mark over fences. He disappointed at Aintree when last seen at the end of October, however, when the vet reported post-race that he had lost both front shoes in the race. A check of the market is advised.
The vote, however, goes to Scotchtown (3.25) who has had a wind operated on since disappointing at Carlisle back in November. His third in the Mandarin Chase here last season is decent form in this grade and he gets the each way vote for Nigel and Sam Twiston-Davies.
At Plumpton Bridle Loanan will be all the rage given the ease with which he scored at Lingfield last week and his 7lbs penalty is offset by conditional jockey Niall Houlihan’s claim. Preference, however, is for David Bridgewater’s Wenceslaus (1.35) who has won his last couple of starts over fences and is just 3lbs higher than when scoring at Leicester on his last start when he jumped out to his left. He is 9lbs higher than when winning here over 2m 3f three starts ago, but I think he may still be ahead of the handicapper.
The filly Gold Brocade did us a favour at Lingfield earlier in the month and a 2lbs rise is very fair with Ben Curtis again in the plate. Likely favourite Batchelor Boy impressed when scoring over C&D last time but the each way selection is River Cam (1.55) who has run his best races on tapeta and deserves to win a race.