Ultimate has won only once over hurdles, but always seems to run well at Musselburgh and can land the big race there tomorrow.
Brian Ellison paid 52,000 guineas for the gelding as a three-year-old after he had won twice on the level and Ultimate made an immediate impact with a runaway victory on his hurdling debut on his first run for the Yorkshire yard.
Since then he has amassed more than £82,000 in prize money with two more victories on the flat and three over fences and the flat, right-handed East Lothian circuit seems to suit the seven-year-old well. He was runner-up in the Triumph Hurdle trial here in 2010, finished third in the Scottish County Hurdle on Trials day the following season and occupied the same position in a competitive handicap hurdle here in February. He lines up for the £40,000 Totepool Mobile Hogmaneigh Hurdle Handicap (2.10) in which he finished a close fourth 12 months ago.
Following a summer break, Ultimate has come back in fine form. After a pipe-opener on the all-weather, he romped home on the level at Catterick in October and followed up by taking a valuable Listed chase at Wetherby early last month. The gelding was far from disgraced when fourth in the Rehearsal Chase at Newcastle a month ago when the three-mile trip put pressure on his stamina.
The drop back in trip to two miles or the switch back to hurdles does not perturb Ellison, but he is upset that the handicapper has put his charge up by 7lb over timber, even though the latest success came over the larger obstacles. “It doesn’t seem right,” he told me. “The horse is rated 143 over fences and that is fair enough as his chase rating went up 8lb after winning at Wetherby, but I fail to see the basis on which they also put his hurdle rating up by 7lbs for the same success.”
So stable conditional jockey Craig Gallagher will ride and his 7lb allowance will cancel out the rise in the ratings.
With more than £100,000 in prize money, top trainer Paul Nicholls has made several entries while Ellison will have a runner in every race bar one. I fancy he can make it a double by taking the Happy New Year from Totepool Handicap Chase (2.45) with Presented.
This Irish point-to-point winner cut little ice over hurdles, but was placed several times over regulation fences before being snapped up by Ellison for 3000 guineas in May.
After a summer holiday, the gelding was runner-up on his debut for his new connections at Hexham in November before justifying favouritism over fences at Newcastle.
Arctic Court was a game winner here last month and can score again in the Collect Totepool Winnings at Betfred Shops Handicap Hurdle (3.20). The gelding was coming back from a break of 175 days when successful and will strip fitter now.
Trainer Jim Goldie has done well with the nine-year-old who won at Kelso in the spring and turned in a fair effort when sixth in a competitive affair at Aintree in May.
Goldie can initiate a double with Merchant of Dubai in the Totequadpot Four Places in Four Races Handicap Hurdle (1.00). The gelding has yet to score at the winter game, but has eight victories on the level on his CV. Three of those successes have come on this track and he has also been placed in three of his four runs over hurdles. He was runner-up here in November and finished fourth in a competitive affair at the last meeting here three weeks ago.
Selections : 1.00 Merchant of Dubai; 2.10 Ultimate; 2.45 Presented; 3.20 Arctic Court