Blades Lad opened his account over fences at Musselburgh last month and can score again on the East Lothian track today.
The gelding has three victories on the level to his credit and, although he failed to score over hurdles, he was placed several times over the smaller obstacles, including when beaten only a nose in a dramatic finish on this track a couple of seasons ago.
He looked set to score on his chasing debut at Sedgefield in October when leading three from home, but was caught on the stiff uphill run-in and went down by a length.
The chestnut switched back to the flat the following month to finish second at Southwell – the winner has obliged again since – and then turned in a fine effort to justify favouritism on this track.
Jumping well, he led off the home turn and held on well when challenged on the run-in to prevail in a photo finish. Connections then sent him to Ascot for a valuable novices handicap chase, but he was on the back foot after a mistake at the fourth obstacle.
The seven-year-old eventually finished well beaten, but he will find the opposition easier in today’s Kilmany Cup (3.00) and gets a confident vote to get back into the winners’ enclosure.
Borders trainer James Ewart has his team in good form and Touch of Steel can make it four wins from five recent runs in the RacingUk Anywhere Handicap Hurdle (2.25).
The gelding opened his winning account at Kelso in September and followed up on that same track the following month before finishing third at Ayr. He has found the step up to longer trips just up his street and, despite climbing the ratings, the seven-year-old got back to winning ways when making all the running to take a conditional jockeys event here before Christmas. Touch of Steel has already schooled well over fences but Ewart has decided to keep him to hurdles for now. The horse tends to get fizzed up so the preliminaries will be important, but he can overcome another 8lbs rise in the ratings here.
Irish trainers mount a strong raid on today’s prizes and Moonlone Lane looks worth support in the Racing UK Profits Returned to Racing Handicap Hurdle (1.50).
A maiden after 26 starts, he ran well when fifth at Fairyhouse in November before winning a two-mile, five-furlong handicap chase for lady riders there at 25-1. The nine-year-old showed it was no fluke when dropping back to the minimum two miles over hurdles and winning here early last month. He failed to complete the hat-trick when only third back over fences at Dromore on Boxing Day but may have paid for racing keenly and setting the pace there. He deserves another chance.
Black Ink looked an unlucky loser when runner-up here late in November and can go one better in the concluding Watch Racing UK Standard National Hunt Flat race (3.30).
The five-year-old made the running and was battling well when challenged inside the final furlong when carried markedly right by the eventual winner and went down by just half a length. His rider objected to the winner, but failed to get the race in the Stewards Room. Black Ink had been second on his debut at Kelso three weeks earlier and clearly has enough ability to make his mark here.
• Musselburgh selections: 1.50 Moonlone Lane; 2.25 Touch of Steel; 3.00 Blades Lad; 3.30 Black Ink.