Lucinda Russell is busy preparing for the 754 mile round trip from her Arlary House Stables in Kinross to the promise land of Prestbury Park, but knows the journey will be worth every yard if she returns with a winner.
Scotland’s leading National Hunt trainer has a few fancied runners from her relatively small team, including the current Byrne Group favourite Tap Night. The horse is also entered for Tuesday’s Handicap Chase, and was last seen finishing a good third behind Wishfull Thinking in a Grade 3 Handicap on Cheltenham Trials Day. “He’s more likely to go for the Byrne Group than the 3m handicap. He was a great novice for us last season but has just found the step up to open handicap company a bit tricky, and his jumping has let him down a bit.
The ground’s set to dry up and that could be a factor. He was very good on heavy ground the other day, but hopefully he’ll handle the better ground that’s expected. If he can hold it all together, he’s got a good chance.” Another with a good chance of success is Green Flag. He also holds an entry for Tuesday’s Handicap Chase, as well as Wednesday’s RSA.
He won his first three races of the season in novice company and went on to finish a creditable second to Annacotty in The Feltham over Christmas, before unseating last time
“We’ll probably run him in the Festival Handicap, although we’re still slightly undecided. He’s done nothing wrong this season, and he might be off a good mark because he’s been running against novices’ up here (north). You can ignore his last run. He jumped very well until he slipped-up on the bend. We’re hopeful he can make the step up to handicap company.”
At 16/1 he looks a fair each way price for the Festival Handicap Chase on Tuesday. The Pertemps Network Final is renowned for throwing up big-priced winners, so 25/1 shot Lie Forrit should not be dismissed on first sight. Since joining the yard last October, the horse has been switched back to hurdles and the response has been immediate.
After a winning debut over 2m 6f at Wetherby, he then went on to finish a good third behind Gevrey Chambertin in Haydock’s ‘Fixed Brush’ Handicap Hurdle. “He ran a fantastic race at Haydock over 3m before Christmas in what could turn out to be one of the best 3m handicap hurdles this season, so that form looks good.
We then ran him quickly to get him qualified for the Pertemps. He’s had a little break, been freshened up and this was always the aim. He really needs the ground to be on the soft side because he’s had leg injuries in the past, so we won’t risk him if the ground comes up too firm. If that was the case, he’d head to Kelso instead.”
The only other pote ntial runner is the four-year-old Thorpe, who could line up in Wednesday’s Fred Winter if a few ahead of him drop out. “He’s got some fantastic form against some of the JCB contenders, including Broughton, who is one of John Ferguson’s best chances. He’s still a maiden and he’ll be a big price, but he’s definitely worth keeping an eye on.”
Tom Chilman is a 23 year old aspiring racing journalist currently studying Sports Journalism at Staffordshire University. I love jump racing, but also keep an eye on news from the flat. Twitter @Chilman_8