Racing: Ayr’s £100k Champion Hurdle boost

Nicky Henderson: Cheltenham hopes this afternoon with Hadrian's Approach. Picture: Getty
Nicky Henderson: Cheltenham hopes this afternoon with Hadrian's Approach. Picture: Getty
Have your say

THE QTS Group and Ayr Racecourse have announced exciting new sponsorship plans for 2015 that include boosting prize-money for the QTS Scottish Champion Hurdle to £100,000 – a rise of £30,000.

The 40 per cent hike in prize-money for the main supporting event on Coral Scottish Grand National Day, on Saturday 18 April, will elevate the Scottish Champion Hurdle to one of the top five two-mile handicap hurdles in British racing.

The new sponsorship agreement also includes the Drumclog-based company’s continued support of the popular QTS Ladies Night on Saturday 8 August, when it will sponsor a total of four races and the night itself.

At Cheltenham today, Hadrian’s Approach is fancied to make a successful return to action in the Majordomo Hospitality Handicap Chase, the pick of the action on the opening afternoon of the venue’s two-day fixture.

Nicky Henderson’s charge suffered mixed fortunes last term with some extremely good efforts punctuated by below-par runs.

Undoubtedly the highlight was his bet365 Gold Cup win back in April, when everything fell right and he ran out a three-quarter-length winner over Burton Port. However, he had previously disappointed at Cheltenham and his jumping let him down when he unseated his rider in the Hennessy.

Hadrian’s Approach appeared to still be learning last term and with another summer on his back, he should be stronger still and his narrow defeat on his reappearance at Kempton last season shows he can run well off a break.

Kings Palace made an impressive start to his fencing career at Cheltenham last month and can keep up the good work in the Ryman Stationery Cheltenham Business Club Novices’ Chase. He flopped when falling in the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle at the Festival but consigned that defeat to the history books when putting in an excellent round of jumping to see off Sausalito Sunset on his return at the Paddy Power meeting. He showed great fluency over his fences and stayed on well that day and while he must shoulder a little extra weight, he is clearly among the leading novices this term.

Big Easy can take the next step up the ladder and deal with a 5lb hike in the Citipost Handicap Hurdle. Philip Hobbs’ charge landed the Cesarewitch on the Flat back in October and has since turned in two excellent quick-fire efforts over hurdles.

At Newcastle yesterday, Three Kingdoms built on his debut fencing triumph with another encouraging victory in the Akis Business Consultants Novices’ Chase at Newcastle.

Successful over the bigger obstacles at Leicester last month, the John Ferguson-trained five-year-old followed up in some style.

Ifandbutwhynot, who was receiving 7lb, set out to make it a true test over the extended two miles while Brian Hughes kept Three Kingdoms handy in second place of the four runners.

It soon became a two-horse battle and there was little to choose between the pair at the final fence, but Three Kingdoms (4-5 favourite) got the upper hand on the run-in to score by a length and a half.

“I’m delighted with the way he ran. Brian said he didn’t like the ground and he proved as a hurdler he was better on good ground,” said Ferguson. “I’m delighted he’s gone to Leicester and gone to Newcastle and he’s won well both times, getting experience.”