Pertemps Network Swinton Handicap Hurdle 2m Haydock Saturday – Paul Nicholls has yet to add a Swinton Hurdle to his outstanding C.V. but went close last year with the 5yo, Set To Go who finished second to Paul Webber’s Gwafa. He tries again with two likely looking types, the 5yo Zubayr, and the year older High Secret, and both have plenty to recommend them. The former looked an unlucky loser of The Scottish Champion Hurdle three weeks ago, where despite meeting the last all wrong, he was only beaten a short head. Only 4lbs higher on Saturday compensation may well await.
The year older Novice, High Secret, is a very solid performer on the flat, winning six of his seventeen starts at distances from 12f to 17f. He finished a close 4th in the 14f sixteen runner handicap, The Old Borough Cup over the course in 2015, strongly suggesting that Saturday’s large field should hold no fears. He is beginning to look just as talented over the smaller obstacles. He has won two of his four starts, and last time put up a noteworthy performance when finishing 4th in an Aintree Grade1. The handicapper hasn’t exactly been generous giving him a mark of 141 and a racing weight of 11-9 but the 6yo has plenty of pace and will be well suited by a fast run contest at the weekend. I feel that there will be plenty more to come from this very genuine animal in his new discipline and is shortlisted.
Last years Scottish Champion Hurdle winner Ch’Tibello, could only finish third in last years renewal, but Master Trainer Skelton looks to have a very strong hand this time with his three 5yo’s, Optimus Prime, Red Tornado, and Mohaayed.
The former, a six figure purchase from France where he was a dual winner over hurdles, including at Listed level looked as if he might justify his purchase price when finishing a close second in a Huntingdon Class2 on his debut for the stable. However he disappointed at Musselburgh three months later when pulled up but we got an idea of what he might be capable of next time in the very valuable Betfair Hurdle at Newbury seven weeks ago. Fitted with a tongue strap for the first time he was travelling strongly coming to the second last only to be badly hampered by a faller. It is hard to say what the probable outcome may have been but it is fair to say that he would have at least been involved in the finish. He comes here a fresh horse and racing off the same mark as Newbury has to be considered.
Stable companion Mohaayed is a very likeable type who always seems to run his race but unfortunately pays the price. He has gone up 2lbs for finishing 2nd in last months Scottish Champion Hurdle and is 3lbs higher than his mark in the County Hurdle at The Festival where he finished 7th. He deserves to win a decent prize but looks handicapped to the hilt.
The talented Welsh trainer, Evan Williams has won this twice in the last five years so certainly knows what is required and is represented by the 10yo, Court Minstrel, and the 6yo John Constable. The former races off a mark of 144 making him joint top weight with 11-12 but he did win the Chepstow Silver Trophy off a 5lbs higher mark in 2015. He has failed to hit the back of the net in his subsequent ten races but ran well last time, beaten only 4 3/4L in the County Hurdle when finishing 10th. He races on Saturday off a 1lbs lower mark and is worth a second look.
John Constable fell at the last having been headed at Aintree last time and off a 5lbs higher mark on Saturday is hard to fancy.
Nicky Henderson won this twice with Eradicate in 2010 and 2012 and with the 6yo Peace And Co has a very well handicapped animal to go to war with. The French bred son of Falco looked destined for the top when winning the 2015 Triumph Hurdle but was a bitter disappointment in his second season. However the Handicapper has taken note and dropped him from a high of 159 to Saturday’s mark of 144. Following a 13 month break he reappeared in the Scottish Champion Hurdle three weeks ago, and ran a race full of promise. He travelled really well throughout and despite losing a shoe finished 6 3/4L behind in 10th. His owners Munir and Souede are great supporters of the Winter Game and have had a great season. Peace And Co might just put the icing on the cake.
Selection : High Secret
E.W. : Peace And Co