Musselburgh kick off their bicentenary year with a Hogmanay cracker tomorrow when a card carrying £120,000 in prize money has attracted entries from many of the major stables.
The weather and transport issues because of the recent widespread flooding will perhaps impact on whether some runners from the big southern stables actually turn up, but some great racing is in prospect and I reckon Brian Ellison can get his New Year off to a great start.
The Yorkshire trainer has a good record on the East Lothian track and sends three runners over the Border. I reckon Zaidiyn can prove the best bet of the day in the totepoolliveinfo.com Hogmaneigh Hurdle (2.10).
Bred by the Aga Khan and a winner twice on the flat in France, the gelding is out of a mare who won the French Oaks and so is closely related to some very good performers on the flat and over jumps. He ran with credit in classy company on the level after joining Ellison and opened his account over hurdles at Bangor just over a year ago.
He ran well to finish fifth in this event 12 months ago on his first venture into handicap hurdle company, staying on well to be beaten just over six lengths and signed off last March by finishing seventh in a big field for the Imperial Cup at Sandown – one of the major handicap hurdles of the year.
The five-year-old returned from a seven-month break at Market Rasen in October and was chasing the leaders when falling at the penultimate flight, but showed there was no ill-effects by finishing fourth in a competitive event on the flat at Chelmsford.
I was particularly taken by his latest effort when runner-up at Haydock five weeks ago when he produced a good run up the home straight and held every chance on the run-in before going down by just three-parts of a length.
The handicapper has put him up 4lbs, but I still fancy he can go one better tomorrow.
Ellison reports that his Spring Cottage yard has been unaffected by flooding and that his string have lost little work of late, so he can complete a double with Five In A Row in the concluding Win a Football Fortune with Super6soccer Handicap Hurdle (3.20).
An Irish point winner, he won two of his four bumpers for Ellison and opened his hurdling account at Sedgefield last Christmas before disappointing when switched to fences, but he made a successful reappearance after a summer break when staying on strongly to score over 3m at Hexham in October. The seven-year-old runs off a 4lbs higher mark now, but should be suited by the extra quarter of a mile this time.
Sir Chauvin can take the opening Toteplacepot First Foot Juvenile Hurdle (12.25) for Jim Goldie who trains near Glasgow and does well here. The gelding was runner-up four times on the flat before opening his account at the Ayr Western meeting in September and he made a successful debut over hurdles on this track early last month. Although he has been fitted with a hood on both his hurdle starts, he has clearly taken well to the winter game.
Firth of Clyde has landed all three career wins over fences and has competed well although unplaced at the Cheltenham festival for the past two years. Although his wins were all over the minimum two miles, he was runner-up in a valuable Listed Chase over 21/2m at Ayr last spring.
The gelding looked a winner in waiting when second at Kelso recently. That was over almost 3m and the drop back in trip in the Totequadpot Premier Chase (1.35) could prove just right.
Selections: 12.25 Sir Chauvin; 1.35 Firth of Clyde; 2.10 Zaiydin; 3.20 Five In A Row