JOHN Quinn has his eye on some of the prize money on Musselburgh’s valuable New Year Day’s fixture with three raiders from his Malton yard making the journey to the East Lothian venue.
The Irishman is double-handed in the £40,000 totepool Mobile Hogmaneigh Hurdle Handicap with Hidden Justice and Zaplamation among 15 declarations for the two-mile feature race.
Quinn, who will be at Cheltenham to saddle crack novice hurdler Racing Pulse, said: “Hidden Justice got a slight knock after his most recent run which was on the Flat at York in May. He has won two of his three starts over hurdles and down the field behind Our Connor in the Triumph Hurdle. He has been training really well but I just wonder how well handicapped he is and that’s a question we will find out at Musselburgh.
“Zaplamation is in good form after winning his first two races of the campaign at Wetherby. He’ll need to improve again but I’d say he’s got to have a chance in a very open race.”
A topical winner of the race, being shown on Channel 4, would be October Worcester scorer New Year’s Eve, representing John Ferguson and Denis O’Regan, a combination with a decent strike rate at Musselburgh.
Quinn’s remaining runner is Triumph Hurdle and Aintree hope Rutherglen, who puts his unbeaten record on the line in the open toteplacepot First Foot Juvenile Hurdle. The Bellwood Cottage trainer added: “He’s got a 10lb penalty for those two wins at Bangor and Wetherby. The more experience he can get the better, and we will find out which way to go with him after Wednesday.”
Eight are set to go to post for the £25,000 totepool.com Scottish Premier Chase over 2m 4f and they include Kealigolane, a recent three-mile course winner for Cumbrian trainer Barry Murtagh.
Channel 4’s coverage will be switching back and forward between Musselburgh and Cheltenham and, at the latter, owner Dai Walters is hopeful Oscar Whisky can exact his revenge upon Taquin Du Seuil.
Nicky Henderson’s charge was an odds-on favourite to beat the Jonjo O’Neill-trained Taquin Du Seuil when the pair met at Prestbury Park in November, but, in a race run at a crawl, the latter won by a neck in a sprint finish. Oscar Whisky returned to Cheltenham a month later and made every yard of the running to get off the mark over fences, getting the better of the talented Wonderful Charm.
Taquin Du Seuil was last seen finishing third behind Hinterland in the Grade One Henry VIII Novices’ Chase at Sandown.
Walters said: “I spoke to Nicky on Monday and he tells me Oscar is in really good form. We’ve got Jonjo’s horse to beat and I’m sure Tony McCoy [Taquin Du Seuil’s jockey] will be hoping the race plays out the same way as it did the last time they met, but it won’t, I can assure you.
“I would imagine we’ll have to go and try to make all the running as he did on his last run. It’s not his ideal way of running, but Oscar can do that.”
Oscar Whisky and Taquin Du Seuil feature among four runners in the Grade Two Cheltenham Pony Club Raceday Novices’ Chase, better known as The Dipper. David Pipe’s Close House and Timesawastin from Evan Williams’ yard complete the quartet.
Willie Mullins is looking forward to seeing unbeaten mare Annie Power gain some valuable Cheltenham experience as she meets two Paul Nicholls-trained rivals in the Dornan Engineering Hurdle.
The exciting chestnut secured her eighth and most significant victory on her first visit to Britain in November, getting the better of the reopposing Zarkandar by five lengths in the Coral Ascot Hurdle. Zarkandar is slightly better off at the weights as the pair do battle for the second time over the intermediate distance of an extended two-and-a-half miles.
Annie Power has the option of going back to two miles for the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham in March or stepping up to three miles for the World Hurdle, but Mullins is in no rush to commit her to either race. “We want to keep winning races with her until we get to Cheltenham [in March], then we’ll decide,” Ireland’s champion trainer said. “We think she is very good, so she is going to have this run which should tell us a lot. It will be good to get a spin around Cheltenham. She’s done everything we’ve asked of her so far.”
Nicholls also saddles Empire Levant, who carries the colours of Sir Alex Ferguson but would appear to have little chance on official ratings.
Double Ross makes a return to Cheltenham in the Fairlawne Handicap Chase. Just eight line up for the Grade Three, compared with the 12 runners Double Ross faced when he lifted the Stewart Family Thank You Gold Cup at Prestbury Park.