Top trainers plan raid at Musselburgh’s Cheltenham trials

Paul Nicholls is one of a number of top trainers heading to Musselburgh. Pic: Getty
Paul Nicholls is one of a number of top trainers heading to Musselburgh. Pic: Getty
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Musselburgh stages its biggest jumps meeting of the year on Sunday with the Cheltenham Festival Trials and the fixture has attracted some top-class entries.

There are 135 horses entered for the eight-race card and half of them come from the major jumping yards in the south of England and Ireland.

Current champion trainer Paul Nicholls intends to despatch a strong team north from his Somerset base and has as total of 11 entries during the day – two less than his arch-rival Nicky Henderson.

Martin Pipe and Nick Skelton have each made seven entries, while leading Irish handler Gordon Elliott – who already has a good record here – leads a strong challenge from the Emerald Isle.

“We are delighted with the entries and it promises to be a great day,” said Musselburgh general manager Bill Farnsworth. “This fixture has really earned its place in the run-up to the Cheltenham Festival and we really appreciate the support we get from the major trainers and from our sponsors.

“All hurdles and fences will be on fresh ground and, although we’ve had 14mm of rain in the past couple of days, the weather forecast is decent with no freezing temperatures.”

The card opens with the Sky Bet Supreme Scottish Trial Novices Hurdle when Yorkshire trainer Brian Ellison is determined to beat off the challenge from the south. He intends to saddle Always Resolute, twice a winner on the level before making a successful debut over timber at Catterick.

The five-year-old figures prominently in the ante-post betting market at 4-1, just behind joint favourites Brain Power and Charbel, although those odds are likely to change when the actual line-up is declared on Friday morning.

Nicky Henderson netted a double last year including the finale, the Pertemps Network Handicap Hurdle with Dawalan, who went on to finish 16th in the Pertemps Final at the Cheltenham Festival.

The Lambourn trainer won the Cheltenham prize 12 months ago with Call the Cops, who went on to finish second in a photo-finish to a Grade 3 event at the Aintree festival.

The gelding is one of four entries Henderson has made for Sunday’s qualifier and the seven-year-old must be considered, even though he is now 17lbs higher in the ratings than when winning at the festival last March.

“It’s a great sporting weekend in Edinburgh with major rugby and football matches and we are proud to be added some top-class racing to that mix,” added Farnsworth.