Top trainer Nicky Henderson sidestepped the first stage of Musselburgh’s premier trials fixture but sends a strong three-horse team to the East Lothian track on Sunday and the trio all look set to score.
The track management will no doubt be disappointed at the small turnout – just 53 declared runners on a card with more than $120,000 in prize money, but proceedings ooze quality and are likely to have considerable bearing on the ante-post betting for several major events at next month’s Cheltenham Festival.
First up for the Henderson team is We Have A Dream, who bids to extend his winning sequence in the Bet365 Scottish Triumph Hurdle Trial (1.25) and boost his prospects for the real thing next month. The four-year-old is unbeaten in three starts over hurdles since joining the Lambourn trainer from France, making all the running for a successful debut over timber at Warwick in November.
Similar tactics were successful again at Doncaster and he then showed a nice turn of foot to complete the hat-trick at Kempton where he led approaching the final flight to beat a couple of smart rivals both of whom had good winning form to their name.
We Have A Dream is currently close up in the betting for Cheltenham behind stable companion Apple’s Shakira and can justify that position by scoring tomorrow. It won’t be a cake walk as four of his five rivals boast winning form, but he will relish the better underfoot conditions
Claimantakinforgan has been well-supported for the Supreme Novices Hurdle at next month’s festival and can boost his prospects by completing a hat-trick in the Sky Bet Supreme Scottish Trial (2.00). A point winner in Ireland, he changed hands for 110,000 guineas and operated in top bumper company last term, winning at Haydock and finishing third in the Champion Bumper at last year’s Cheltenham Festival.
He is unbeaten in two starts over timber at Newbury and Ascot and the form of those efforts has been boosted by the subsequent victories of those behind him.
Mr Whipped faces five other previous winners in the Albert Bartlett Scottish Trial (2.35) but can preserve his unbeaten record and complete the Henderson treble.
The five-year-old was bought for 160,000 guineas after winning on his only start in Irish points and made all the running for a successful start over hurdles at Kempton in November.
That was over two miles and he stepped up in trip to win over an extra four furlongs at Newbury in December before extending his successful sequence over an extra furlong and up in class at Warwick last month.
He has shown greeness and lack of experience at times, but clearly has a big engine and can prove too strong for Present Man, who represents the powerful Paul Nicholls yard.
Cresswell Legend is another who lays his record on the line in the Pertemps Network Handicap Hurdle Qualifier (3.10). He too was successful in Irish points and he took a bumper at Huntingdon last spring.
He has thrived since switching to hurdles this term and is unbeaten in three starts over timber so far, relishing the step up to longer trips in the process. An all-the-way win at Ludlow in October preceded success on that track the following month and he returned from a seven-week break to complete the hat-trick on this track recently.
That was over three miles and the way he stayed on suggests the extra quarter of a mile this time should pose no problems.
Selections: 1.25 We Have A Dream; 2.00 Claimantakinforgan; 2.35 Mr Whipped; 3.10 Cresswell Legend.