Connections of Hargam feel the expected better ground at Musselburgh tomorrow will see the four-year-old in his best light when he bids to book his place at Cheltenham.
The Nicky Henderson-trained grey has had both his starts at the Prestbury Park venue to date, finishing second to Golden Doyen on his British debut and then opening his account with a length-and-a-quarter verdict over Karezak.
He will now try show he is a feasible contender for Festival honours when he lines up for the John Smith’s Scottish Triumph Hurdle Trial.
“We support this meeting every year. Going to Musselburgh is all about the ground. That’s the point in going there. We want good ground – there’s not much of that down here at the moment,” said Henderson. “AP [McCoy] felt after his win in the JCB Triumph Hurdle Trial at Cheltenham that he needed good ground.”
Frank Berry, racing manager to owner JP McManus, is looking for a decent display from the French import. “He’s come out of his race well. Nicky’s very happy. I don’t know much about the opposition but I just hope he’s competitive,” he said.
Starchitect was firmly put in his place by Henderson’s Triumph Hurdle favourite Peace And Co at Doncaster and trainer Donald McCain is hoping lightning does not strike twice.
“The Henderson horse stands out again, but I have to admit I was mightily impressed with the horse that beat us at Doncaster,” said the Cheshire handler.
“I think on better ground he might have run better again at Doncaster, so he should like the ground on Sunday. Two miles at Musselburgh might be sharp enough, but he’s a nice horse and he’s in good form.”
Cinders And Ashes, winner of the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at the 2012 Festival for the McCain stable, has his first race since that meeting last March in the John Smith’s Scottish County Hurdle.
McCain sends a big raiding party to the Edinburgh track starting with Kie and Swift Arrow in the John Smith’s Scottish Champion Chase (Handicap). He is represented in the John Smith’s Scottish Future Champions Novices’ Chase by Doyly Carte, who bids to make amends for a fall at Catterick on her latest start.
“We’re going for the ground and I think two and a half miles around Musselburgh is probably about right for her. She did win here over hurdles,” said McCain.
“She’s bit a long way off them on ratings and Jason [Maguire] felt she’d have won at Catterick but for falling.”
Argent Knight, runner-up in two starts over the small obstacles at Catterick, is the McCain team member in the Albert Bartlett Scottish Trial (Novices’ Hurdle)
• Attendances across Scottish racecourses increased by four per cent in 2014, with just under 300,000 people enjoying a day at the races north of the border. There was also a record in fixtures abandoned as only two race meetings were lost to the weather in Scotland last year.
Scottish Racing Manager, Lorna Ferguson said: “We are delighted with the rise in crowds and for our courses celebrating an increase on their individual attendances.
“Not least with the Commonwealth Games, there was plenty going on in the sporting world in Scotland in 2014 so we were happy to see this had a positive impact on our raceday turn outs.
“Looking ahead to 2015, there will be over £6.6 million in prizemoney, which is a new record and a fantastic achievement.
“This will be spread across 104 fixtures on the Flat and over jumps and will hopefully ensure racing in Scotland will continue to flourish.
“More details can be found at www.scottishracing.co.uk”