Jump-start for Musselburgh

MUSSELBURGH boasts perfect ground for its opening National Hunt fixture of the 2010-11 jumps season and the favourable conditions have been rewarded with competitive fields throughout the seven-race card.

Racing gets under way at 12.25 and the Lucinda Russell trained Beat The Band, runner-up in three of her last four outings, will be well fancied to lose her maiden tag at the fifth attempt.

Jim Goldie, Scotland's top flat race trainer, holds a strong hand in all three of the remaining hurdles races. The Uplawmoor trainer saddles Regent's Secret in the Doos An Donts handicap, relies on Grand Diamond in the 10,000 Saltire 2010 handicap hurdle at 2.00 and runs Dhaular Dhar in the novices' hurdle.

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The nap goes to the Graham Wylie-owned Double Expresso, who made big strides for Howard Johnson's stable last season, and is sent over fences for the first time today. The Johnson-Wylie combination has plundered plenty of prizes at Musselburgh in previous seasons, and they can strike again in the novice chase.

Highlights of the Musselburgh jumps season include the New Year's Day meeting on 1 January which will be televised by Channel 4 and includes a new 25,000 hurdle race and a 20,000 chase, the Scottish Triumph Hurdle Trial on 27 January and the well-established John Smith's Scottish Cheltenham Trials day on Sunday, 2 February.

Musselburgh general manager, Bill Farnsworth, said: "We got hit fairly hard with cancellations due to adverse weather last winter so we are hoping things work out better this season.

"We are racing on New Year's Day and, with two high-quality races catching the eye of Channel 4, that meeting should prove a popular addition to our calendar while our John Smith's Cheltenham Trials in February goes from strength to strength.

"Over the piece we think we have managed to put together a decent jumps programme at a time when the entire racing industry is facing worrying times due to a lack of funding."

Students have the chance to put their books down and give the bookies a beating with a cut-price admission offer at the course. Any student producing official student ID will be admitted for 2 at Musselburgh today - a saving of 13.

There is also a good card at Ascot this afternoon, where Gary Moore has every right to be excited about Megastar making his debut over timber in the Robert Giles Agencies Introductory Hurdle.Having beaten the smart Wayward Prince on his racecourse bow a year ago, he was turned over by a 33-1 chance on his next outing.

He proved that was all wrong, however, by running a screamer in the Cheltenham bumper, eventually finishing fifth behind Cue Card.

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What was more pleasing was that he confirmed form with Philip Hobbs' Dare Me, one place behind him in March, when the two met again in Aintree's big National Hunt Flat race.

Only five, he has a huge future ahead of him and there will be some long faces if he is turned over.

A strong case can also be made for the Warren Greatrex-trained Den Of Iniquity in the Atlantic Enterprises Handicap Chase, while Charlie Mann has never hidden the regard in which he holds Sullumo and he can make a winning return in the Pertemps Handicap Hurdle Series (Qualifier) at Exeter.

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