LITTLE BRUCE has already been installed ante-post favourite for the feature race at Musselburgh’s opening Scottish Cheltenham Trials card on Saturday as he bids to add another ‘national’ to the one he bagged at Catterick.
Trained near Scotch Corner by Philip Kirby and ridden by Tommy Dowson, he is one of 15 entries for the £45,000 bet365 Edinburgh National having landed the North Yorkshire equivalent at his local track off a 6lb lower mark three weeks ago.
The opposition is headed by Dan Skelton-trained Very First Time, the winner of three races already this season, most recently when scoring by six-lengths at Doncaster on Saturday.
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Richard Hobson’s Cheltenham raider Chic Name, not disgraced when eighth in last April’s Scottish Grand National, is another possible while Brian Boranha represents Malton handler Peter Niven, who as a jockey, rode on the opening Musselburgh jumps card in 1987.
In the £35,000 bet365 Scottish County Hurdle, Jim Goldie’s Sir Chauvelin is expected to try for a fifth course and distance strike at the East Lothian venue.
A short-priced favourite when fourth in the 2018 Scottish County Hurdle, his most recent track success came in the Hogmaneigh Hurdle on New Year’s Day and he races in the colours of Dundee United director Jimmy Fyffe.
Current champion jumps trainer Paul Nicholls, winner of this in 2017 with subsequent Grade 1 scorer Diego Du Charmil, is triple-handed with Miranda, Scaramanga and Bathsheba Bay.
Donald McCain’s Dear Sire, the winner two years ago, is also among the entries along with John Quinn’s dual course winners Ashington and Project Bluebook.
The bet365 Scottish Champion Chase was won in 2017 by San Benedetto, a future Grade 1 winner at Aintree just a few weeks later, and the top-rated entry for Saturday is Ruth Jefferson-trained Double W’s on a BHA mark of 140.
Brian Ellison-trained Ballyvic Boru, a national hunt flat race winner at Musselburgh during his younger days, appears for the second time since having wind surgery while Cracking Destiny, who changed hands for £35,000 last May, has won and finished second in two Musselburgh runs since joining Hawick trainer Alistair Whillans.
Paul Nicholls’ Wonderful Charm, who has contested six Cheltenham Festivals including when pipped by a neck three years ago, won the 2017 and 2018 renewals of the bet365 Scottish Foxhunter Open Hunters’ Chase and is among the 14 entries.
On Sunday the richest pot on offer is the £35,000 bet 365 Scottish Triumph Hurdle. Jockey Daryl Jacob took the 2018 renewal with soon-to-be Grade 1 winner We Have A Dream and the Irishman has been booked for the ride on Goa Lil, an all-the-way winner at Kempton earlier this month for Nigel Twiston-Davies.
Irish trainer John McConnell has saddled winners at Musselburgh in past and he is double-handed with Anna Bunina and course and impressive New Year’s Day course and distance scorer Never Do Nothing.
Scotland’s leading Flat trainer Keith Dalgleish could also run two horses as he has entered Three Castle and December course winner El Picador who is co-owned by Hamilton Park chairman Sir Ian Good and his daughter Catriona.
Entries for the £20,000 bet365 Scottish Supreme Novices’ Hurdle include Nicky Henderson-trained Fred and Ecco, representing Paul Nicholls, who were separated by four and half lengths when first and second at Kempton on Boxing Day.
Jabbaar was a useful horse on the Flat for Iain Jardine and he made a winning debut for his Carrutherstown trainer at Sedgefield before coming a gallant second at Kelso recently.
In the concluding bet365 Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race, Scottish owner Thomas Barr has entered December Chepstow runner-up Mortlach.
Paul Nicholls has already secured the services of Harry Cobden who has ridden two winners from just seven previous rides at Musselburgh.