Musselburgh’s major jumps meeting of the year has again attracted a whole host of challengers for the big prizes on offer there tomorrow.
With more than £130,000 in prize money over an eight-race card, most of the major Southern stables are represented and much of the cash seems destined to go back across the Border.
Nicky Henderson is represented in five races with stable jockey Barry Geraghty making the trip from Ireland and Mister Dillon can get them off to a flyer by winning the opening Pertemps Network Handicap hurdle (1.00) – a qualifier for the big final at the Cheltenham festival next month.
The gelding won a bumper and a novice hurdle two seasons ago, but was then highly tried off tough marks in handicaps and was winning for the first time since then when scoring at Doncaster during the Christmas holidays. That was over an extended three miles and he stayed on strongly after leading early in the home straight. He tends to get bogged down in the winter mud and that better ground on Town Moor had helped his performance.
He should get better underfoot conditions again in the East Lothian track and can defy a 7lb rise in the ratings.
Henderson and Geraghty can make it a double with Adeupas d’Ycy who was bought privately for a hefty sum despite having finished last of four runners in his only race in France. But he made an impressive winning debut when favourite for a junior bumper on his British debut at Exeter in November. That was on quicker ground, but he coped admirably with the mud when runner-up in a similar event at Cheltenham recently.
The grey has an entry on the Triumph Hurdle and can earn a trip to next month’s festival by making a winning start to his career over timber in the John Smith’s Scottish Triumph Hurdle Trial (2.30)
Henderson can make it a treble with Top of the Range in the John Smith’s Scottish Future Champions Novice Chases (3.00) – but this time Geraghty will not do the steering.
The Irishman has chosen instead to partner the stable’s other runner, Ericht, on whom he has won four times in the past and the ride on Top of the Range goes to Andrew Tinkler.
Top of the Range carries the colours of Dai Walters who owns Ffos Las racecourse where the gelding won his first two races – a bumper and a maiden hurdle in 2011.
He was sent off third favourite for the Pertemps Hurdle Final at last year’s Cheltenham festival, but finished well beaten, However the seven-year-old returned from a summer break to score in good style on his chasing debut at Ascot in November. He made once early mistake, but jumped well afterwards and although he has yet to be given any fancy entries at the big spring fixtures, he may well develop into a more than useful chaser.
Henderson and Geraghty have sound claims too with recent Kempton scorer Lyvius in the John Smith’s Scottish County Hurdle (3.30), but here I prefer the chances of Semetgal who makes the long trip from the Paul Nicholls’ establishment in Somerset. The five-year-old won the Triumph Hurdle Trial on this card last year before finishing third in the Triumph itself and was then runner-up in the Scottish Champion Hurdle at Ayr.
He returned from a summer holiday to win at Cheltenham in October and was narrowly beaten in the valuable Greatwood Hurdle there the following month before finishing third to two leading Champion Hurdle candidates in the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton on Boxing Day.
The gelding has already schooled well over fences, but Nicholls wants to keep the youngster to the smaller obstacles and try to avoid the big guns in that sphere for the rest of the current campaign. He seems to have found an ideal opportunity here and Sametgal can defy top weight.
Musselburgh selections: 1.00 Mister Dillon; 2.30 Adeupas d’Ycy; 3.00 Top of the Range; 3.30 Sametgal.