Nicky Henderson, almost certain to be crowned champion trainer again when the jumps campaign ends on Saturday, is double-handed on day two of the Perth Festival.
The Lambourn handler is represented by Top Ville Ben in the opening Murrayshall Hotel And Golf Courses Novices’ Hurdle and Full Shift in the All New Discovery River Tay Handicap Chase. The pair are rare raiders from Henderson’s yard, which has produced one winner from eight runners at Perth in the past five seasons.
Full Shift, who carries the colours of JP McManus, was a close second when last seen out at Kempton in February.
Also in the line-up for the £25,000 handicap chase are top-weight Special Catch trained by Malcolm Jefferson, Venetia Williams’ Uhlan Bute and Dan Skelton-trained Value At Risk.
Evan Williams-trained Gayebury landed the EBF Stallions Gold Castle “National Hunt” Novices’ Hurdle yesterday, the first Listed race to be staged at the Scone track. The Welsh raider, sent off at 3-1, saw off Robbin’hannon by three and three-quarter lengths and winning jockey Tom O’Brien said: “If you forgive him a moderate run in the Pertemps Final his form is pretty impressive as you always need plenty of luck in that Cheltenham race.
“He gave me a great spin today and ideally he would like softer ground. He’s a had a terrific season and looks the right type to go chasing one day.”
The finish of the day saw Philip Hobbs’ Royal Village and champion jockey Richard Johnson scramble home by a nose at odds of 8-15 in the Joseph Perrier “Party Has Started” Maiden Hurdle.
At Punchestown, Nichols Canyon can confirm his Cheltenham form in the Ladbrokes Champion Stayers Hurdle on the third day of the festival.
The Willie Mullins-trained gelding relished the three miles of last month’s Stayers’ Hurdle as he came out on top against Lil Rockerfeller and Unowhatimeanharry.
There appeared to be no fluke about that success and, while it may be a strong renewal of this race, Nichols Canyon keeps surprising everyone and has already eight wins at the highest level.
Mullins has made no secret of how he rates Great Field and the rapidly-progressive six-year-old can continue his winning run in the Ryanair Novice Chase.