Cheltenham festival credentials will be on the line again at Musselburgh tomorrow when Peddlers Cross is likely to hog the limelight.
Donald McCain’s gelding has some top-class form over hurdles on his CV, winning his first eight races, including the Neptune Novices Hurdle at the 2009 festival, and he was runner-up in the Champion Hurdle itself the following year.
A switch to fences last season yielded two easy wins against modest opposition before he disappointed when only eighth in the Jewson Novices Chase at last year’s festival. Afterwards, McCain declared the eight-year-old would switch back to the smaller obstacles.
He was runner-up in a bumper over two miles at Kempton last month on his reappearance and holds entries in both the Champion Hurdle and the World Hurdle next month.
McCain has yet to finalise the Cheltenham objective, but saddles his gelding for tomorrow’s Howies Restaurants Edinburgh Hurdle (1.40) over 2¾m, which suggests that the World Hurdle my well be the main objective this spring.
Peddlers Cross is the highest rated runner in tomorrow’s contest, but may not have it all his own way, as champion trainer Paul Nicholls has a couple of entries including Wonderful Charm, who also holds the World Hurdle engagement. The five-year-old had some smart form in France and made a successful British debut at Chepstow at the end of October. He has not raced since then, but is highly rated in a stable full of talent and would be an interesting runner if he makes the long trek from Somerset.
Nicholls may well have a winner on the card though, for Salubrious can defy top weight in the CMYK Digital Solutions Handicap Hurdle (3.40) following a ready victory at the last meeting here nine days ago.
That success came in a conditional riders event, so the gelding does not get a penalty tomorrow and Harry Derham will be able to claim a very handy 5lb allowance.
Amisfield Lad looks a real bargain, for he cost just £900 as a yearling, despite being closely related to several winners on the flat. He was too backward to run on the level, but made a successful racecourse bow in a bumper on this course before Christmas. That form has been devalued by the subsequent defeat of the runner-up, but Amisfield Lad quickened well, will have learnt from the experience and as a four-year-old he gets a handy weight allowance from some of his rivals, so can follow up in the 32red Poker National Hunt Flat race (4.40).
Copper’s Gold can get the locals off to a good start by taking the opening Country Refreshments Amateur Riders Handicap Chase (1.10) for Lucinda Russell’s Fife yard.
The gelding has three victories over fences to his credit, including over this course and distance and although he has not raced since mid-November, that has been by design as he cannot handle the mud. He is much better on the decent sort of surface he is likely to get tomorrow.
Selections: 1.10 Copper’s Gold; 1.40 Peddler’s Cross; 3.40 Salubrious; 4.40 Amisfield Lad