CPMS Scottish Champion Hurdle (Limited Handicap) Grade2 2miles Ayr Saturday

scottish champion hurdleI hope followers of the blog took our advice and backed the amazing Tiger Roll in last week’s Grand National. Brilliant though he was, I think that comparisons with the immortal Red Rum are a little premature, as Rummy, not only landed a 3rd Grand National, but finished 2nd in two others, and all were achieved over the pre “modified”
fences. It would be wonderful to see the apple of Gordon Elliott’s eye land a 3rd win in the great race, but with the prospect of having to carry top weight next year, It’s quite possible that we witnessed the little horse’s Aintree Swansong last Saturday. We can be pretty certain that Saturday’s field for The Scottish Champion Hurdle, doesn’t contain any future winners of Aintree’s Blue Riband, but nevertheless, the Grade2 Handicap, with 20 runners, and the market leader, Nube Nebra, trading at around the 5/1 mark, it does look a highly competitive heat.

Trained by Dan Skelton, who won with Ch’Tibello three years ago, the 5yo Nube Negra, spent his two and three year old days, racing on the flat, around Madrid’s
La Zarzuela Hippodrome, without a win from his 7 starts, but joining the Skelton Academy in October 2017, he hit the back of the net at the first attempt. With form figures reading 1 2 1 he was sent off the 15/2 Fav for last year’s Fred Winter at The Cheltenham Festival and ran well to finish 3rd to Veneer Of Charm and Style De Garde (now rated 139) racing off a mark of 135. He failed to catch the judges eye in his next 3 races, but performed much better 24 days ago when finishing a close 3rd off a mark of 134. On his run in The Fred Winter he doesn’t look badly treated on Saturday’s mark of 137.

scottish champion hurdle alan kingAlan King (pictured) won with the 6yo, Raya Star seven years ago, and is double handed on Saturday, with another 6yo, Dino Velvet, and a year younger, Redicean. The former, a winner over course and distance at this meeting last year off a mark of 121, has progressed nicely over the subsequent 12 months, and comfortably won a Stratford Class3 off a mark of 129 34 days ago. He will be well suited by the likely good ground at the weekend, and racing off a mark of 134, giving him a lovely racing weight of 10-4, looks fairly treated (note the same connections are also represented by Seddon).

Stable companion, Redicean, is a decent flat racer, (rated 97) and is no slouch over hurdles either. He has won 3 of his 6 starts, including a 7L victory over Saturday’s opponent, Malaya (rec 5lbs) at Kempton in February 2018, and actually meets the Nicholls runner on 2lbs better terms. Malaya looked an improved performer last time at Sandown but Redicean has also taken an 11lbs forward step on the flat and if he has made the same progress over hurdles looks well treated on 144. A patriotic Scot, there is little Alan King enjoys more than a victory on his home turf.

It is 33 years since Nicky Henderson last tasted success in Scotland’s Champion, and triple handed this year, he’s obviously intent on correcting the deficit. Verdana Blue,  Mister Fisher, and Brain Power, Line up for the Seven Barrows yard and of the three, Mister Fisher, the mount of Stable Jockey, Nico De Boinville looks the most interesting.
Lightly, raced the 5yo has won two of his four starts over hurdles including the Grade2 Rossington Main at Haydock where he beat the now 149 rated, Bright Forecast,(rec3lbs) by 2 3/4L. He failed to fire on Prestbury Park’s  Soft ground in The Supreme Novices at The Cheltenham Festival but back on good ground racing off a pretty fair looking 145 has to be considered.

The mare Verdana Blue is the undoubted class act in the race and will be helped by the 7lbs claim of the experienced Connor Brace. Good ground will also be in her favour but my main concern is that all her best runs over hurdles have come on right handed tracks, and indeed she has yet to register a win going left handed. Mind you if she does manage to win left handed it will probably be on a galloping course with a long straight like Ayr.

The Fergal O’Brien trained Benny’s Bridge has sneaked into the race on bottom weight and could be well treated. The son of beneficial, comfortably won a Class2 Cheltenham Handicap in January from the Skelton trained favourite, Flash The Steel. He drew clear in quite impressive style inside the last 100 yards and as the runner up was an easy winner next time out there is a really solid feel to the form. He can be forgiven a poor performance behind Malaya in the Sandown mud next time but showed that he was still progressing last time when readily beating David Pipe’s useful ex German flat racer, Yala Salaam at Market Rasen 17 days ago.

Selection : Redicean

EW.           : Benny’s Bridge  Dino Velvet

John Gray

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