Shrewd was a real star for Iain Jardine last year and the gelding can kick off another successful campaign by winning the Totepool Queen’s Cup (3.35) at Musselburgh tomorrow.
The Dumfries and Galloway-based trainer has pencilled in an ambitious programme for his seven-year-old, beginning with this new £100,000 event on the East Lothian track.
Shrewd joined Jardine’s team 18 months ago and won three of his four starts over hurdles last winter, with two of those victories coming on this track – including the Scottish County Hurdle Trial.
His progress continued last summer with a victory at York in June before he finished an excellent second in the £250,000 Ebor there in August.
That effort marked him as a stayer to watch and he was third in the Cesarewitch Trial at Newmarket before lining up for the big stamina test itself at HQ in October.
Shrewd was far from disgraced in finishing 12th in the 33-strong field and Jardine has resisted the temptation go back over timber with him.
“He’s had a nice long break, but has been back in and working well in recent weeks and is in grand shape,” said Jardine.
The gelding already has an entry in the Chester Cup, while races like the Northumberland Plate, the Ebor and the Cesarewitch are all likely targets.
“I am hopeful of a big run at Musselburgh and then on to Chester, while the Newcastle race is tempting because he goes well on the Tapeta surface,” said Jardine. “The problem might be trying to keep him and my other good staying horse – Nikita – apart as those races would also suit him too.”
Mark Johnston saddles two runners. Soldier in Action is fit from hurdling while Isharah has won twice on the all-weather during the winter and is at the right end of the weights, but Jardine has his team in great form with a strike rate of 25 per cent in the past fortnight and Shrewd can make a winning return.
Richard Fahey also has his string well forward and runs no less than nine horses on the seaside track, with four of them lining up for the £50,000 Totepoolliveinfo.com Royal Mile (3.00).
Best of them could be Rashford’s Double, who ended last term with a quick-fire hat-trick of victories, but I prefer the chances of Novoman, who makes the long trek north from Newmarket.
The gelding is the only horse trainer William Haggas sends to the meeting and the hint should be taken. Novoman was placed in his first two starts last year before opening his account at Brighton and later went down narrowly in competitive events at Pontefract and Doncaster.
Fahey can win the juvenile event – the Toteexact EBF Stallions Conditions Stakes (4.05) – with Requinto Dawn, who made an impressive winning debut at Doncaster on the opening day of the new turf season.
The colt gets a 4lb penalty for that success, but is bred for speed and can his experience to good use from a useful draw near the stands rail.
The Yorkshire trainer can initiate a double with Penwortham in the opening Toteplacepot Easter Saturday Handicap (1.50).
A 68,000 gns buy at the breeze-up sales, he won on the all-weather at Wolverhampton as a juvenile and was fourth on this track on his reappearance last spring before scoring at Goodwood.
The gelding then went down narrowly at Chester and was not disgraced at Newmarket and Epsom before returning to Chester to win a competitive 7F handicap in early Septrember.
He has not run since then and is off a 6lbs higher mark here, but this is his trip and his trainer tells me that he seems best on tight tracks, so this sharp circuit should suit his style of racing.
Selections: 1.50 Penwortham; 3.00 Novoman; 3.35 4.05 Requinto Dawn.