Emmet Mullins won the first running of Kelso’s Morebattle Hurdle as a limited handicap two years ago with 5/2 favourite The Shunter who went on to land a £100,000 bonus by following up at Cheltenham in the Paddy Power Plate.
The bookmakers are taking no chances about the stable attempting something similar this Saturday with four-year-old McTigue whose Triumph Hurdle entry is among several options he currently holds at the Festival in a couple of weeks.
WELCOME TO PP NEWS: NEW TO US? CLICK HERE FOR OUR £/€20 SIGN-UP OFFER
A useful performer on the Flat for Jim Bolger, McTigue was sent to Britain to make a successful hurdling debut at Sedgefield in the Autumn and then showed considerable improvement when beating some of France’s top three-year-old hurdlers in a Group 2 contest at Auteuil worth nearly £60,000.
While McTigue has been well beaten in both his starts since, he’s been given a break since his last run at Leopardstown on Boxing Day and looks very much to have been laid out for this, with a BHA mark of 142 giving him every chance on his handicap debut.
He won’t be short of rivals, however, and another possible runner from Ireland, top weight Colonel Mustard, is an interesting one for Lorna Fowler. He’s been chasing this season but was placed behind the likes of Jonbon, Sir Gerhard and State Man last term – finishing third to the last-named when only getting a pound from him in the County Hurdle at the Festival. Betfair Hurdle third Teddy Blue would be a rare runner for Gary Moore at Kelso but looks well handicapped off a 3 lb lower mark than at Newbury where he ran under a penalty.
Sam Thomas’ progressive novice Deere Mark was taken out of the Betfair because of the ground but has more scope for improvement than most of these, while Dan Skelton is always to be respected in this type of contest and has a likely type in the ex-French L’Eau du Sud who was having only his second start for the yard when third in a competitive handicap at Kempton last time. Last year’s winner Cormier, trained by Brian Ellison, is another for the shortlist and was in the process of running well when unseating over fences last time.
Grand National entries get Aintree tune up
Le Milos is another who won one of the major handicap chases in the first part of the season having a potential Grand National warm-up here. Having joined Dan Skelton this season, he won both his starts in November, notably the Coral Gold Cup at Newbury. Freshened up after a hard race there, he too looks to have further improvement in him.
Le Milos :
The other Grand National entry is The Shunter, mentioned above as the former Morebattle winner on this card. He’s contested a variety of races in the last couple of years without adding to his Festival victory and was last seen on the Flat, finishing fourth in the November Handicap at Naas when sent off favourite.
Zanza could bid for another Newbury course win
Philip Hobbs’ Zanza has an entry in the Premier Chase at Kelso but he’s also entered in the Greatwood Gold Cup at Newbury where he has such a good record. Whilst not one to trust overall, he’s a much more reliable proposition at Newbury for some reason and has won on both visits there this term, notching a fifth course win when causing a surprise by beating favourite Hitman in the Denman Chase there last month. Inevitably, that’s done his handicap mark no favours and, now a stone higher in the weights than for his last handicap, he shares top weight of 12-0 with Paint The Dream.
Paint The Dream has a fine record at Newbury himself for Fergal O’Brien which includes a 15-length win in this race 12 months ago. He won by almost as far over the same course and distance here in November off a 7 lb higher mark, though that was a poor race for the money with the switch to much more patient tactics than usual paying dividends in a strongly-run race. He ran better than the result suggests in the Silviniaco Conti Chase at Kempton last time and makes a bit more appeal than Zanza off his current mark.
At the other end of the handicap, Lord Baddesley takes the eye for Chris Gordon whose yard was in tremendous form through February, with the highlight being Aucunrisque’s win in the Betfair Hurdle, one of two winners for the stable at Newbury’s last big meeting. Lord Baddesley was a winner himself last month, landing a gamble when forcing the pace in a novices’ handicap at Plumpton, and may still be capable of better over fences. Venetia Williams’ front runner Gemirande is another last-time-out winner to note after last month’s success from War Lord at Wetherby.
STUDY THE FORM & GET ALL THE RESULTS
- CHECK OUT OUR SNAZZY RACECARDS FOR EVERY RACE, EVERY DAY
- WE HAVE ALL THE HORSE RACING FAST RESULTS YOU’LL EVER WANT