Fagan is the star turn on the opening day of the Perth Festival as the recent Cheltenham runner-up reappears in the £18,000 British Stallions Future Champions EBF “National Hunt” Novices’ Hurdle.
Among the rivals facing the close Grade 1 Albert Bartlett Hurdle second are Nambour and Up For Review, the first-ever runners at the Scone track for leading Irish trainer Willie Mullins.
Mullins is sending over five horses to the three-day festival as he bids to beat Paul Nicholls in the race for the National Hunt champion trainer’s title, but may have to play second fiddle to the Gordon Elliott-trained Fagan today.
With a current BHB rating of 149, Fagan carries the colours of Airdrie owner Ronnie Bartlett. Elliott said: “I’ve always loved coming over to Perth – my very first winner came there – and it’s great craic for our owners too. Fagan hasn’t done a lot wrong all season and he ran a blinder at Cheltenham.”
The opening race could go to Lucinda Russell’s Misfits, who shaped well when second to Sioux Chieftain in a conditional maiden at Wetherby last time, while Hawick’s Craig Nichol, about to be crowned champion conditional rider, can steer top-weight Bernadelli to victory in the Aberdeen Asset Management Handicap Chase. Nicky Richards’ Greystoke raider takes on eight opponents, including Fergal O’Brien-trained Jenny’s Surprise, who is on a hat-trick following back-to-back victories at Sandown.
The final race on today’s card, the Aberdeen Asset Management PLC Handicap Hurdle, could go to top-weight Baby King if Tom George’s hope can repeat the form he showed when winning at Haydock in November.
Baby King has been somewhat frustrating since, but is taken to to put those disappointments behind him with victory here.
Meanwhile, at Epsom, the Investec Derby Trial often produces a decent winner, but you have to go a long way back into history to find the last victor who went on to take the main event itself.
Peter Pan in 1939 was the last horse to win the Trial before going on to Derby glory and given the highest rated runner in the race is off a mark of 99, the mile-and-a-half event appears to be a Derby Trial in name only again.
That said, there are a clutch of unexposed runners in the field and Top Beak could be worth taking a chance on despite having to find a chunk of weight with top-rated Humphrey Bogart.
Top Beak has had just the one start to date when he was something of a rare first-time-out winner for Hughie Morrison at Windsor last October.
Triumphing over an extended mile, Top Beak ground out a head victory over Mountain Bell and while the verdict was hardly impressive, the fact the second, third, fourth and fifth have all won since certainly gives the form a pleasing lustre.
Ennaadd was one of those in behind and, given he now boasts a rating of 106, Top Beak’s win looks pretty good.
The Lawman colt has some way to go to make up into a Classic contender, but the fact Morrison runs at all is worth noting. Not every horse acts around the undulating Epsom track, so the fact Prendergast Hill is already a course winner counts as a massive positive in the Investec Corporate Banking Great Metropolitan Handicap. The four-year-old won a 10-furlong event on the Downs last September on what was the last of his three 2015 outings for Ed de Giles.
He then returned to action over 11 furlongs at Kempton last month where just could not make up ground quickly enough in finishing fourth, suggesting a step up in trip might be a wise option. A couple of his siblings have been notable stayers so there is every hope 12 furlongs should suit.
Dark Red can follow up on his recent Chelmsford success in the Investec City And Suburban Stakes.
1.50 Fumbo Jumbo
2.20 Hit The Lights
2.55 Next Edition
3.30 Russian Royale
5.10 Fine Example
5.40 Secret City
2.30 Top Beak
3.05 Prendergast Hill
3.40 Dark Red
4.15 Silca Star
4.50 Gold Faith
4.45 The Black Princess
5.15 Jersey Roy
5.45 Cadland Lad
7.15 Senses Of Dubai
2.40 Song Saa
3.15 Fagan (nap)
4.25 Frontier Vic
5.00 Mossies Well
6.05 All Set To Go
6.35 To Begin
7.35 Saint Raph
8.05 Young Lou