Aristo Du Plessis winning at Musselburgh's popular Hogmanay meetingPICTURE: John Grossick (racingpost.com/photos)
Ewart quick to praise head lad as Aristo powers to another victory
TRAINER James Ewart heaped praise on his head lad as Aristo Du Plessis maintained his relentless climb up the rankings.
The 5-2 favourite made light of a 25lb weights rise since his first handicap win to maintain a 100 per cent record from his last six completed starts.
Aristo Du Plessis led all the way and quickened again in the closing stages to ensure a two-and-a-quarter-length verdict over Pearl Castle in the £40,000 2m handicap hurdle at the popular Hogmanay meeting.
The Scottish Champion Hurdle is the main target for the six-year-old, who would probably have won seven out of seven but for a fall when in a clear lead on his seasonal debut.
Ewart, based in Langholm in the Scottish Borders, has had a tough task preparing Aristo Du Plessis as his gallops have been unusable for several weeks because of flooding and he paid tribute to his head lad David McLeod for keeping the horse in prime condition.
"Without David I doubt this horse would be where he is now," said Ewart. "He's given him lots of tender loving care and ridden him out every day. We've been forced to use my Tapeta gallop as all the grass gallops remain out of action."
Musselburgh came to the rescue, allowing Ewart to work Aristo Du Plessis on the track last month. But he had to be withdrawn from his intended race at Doncaster as the ground became too soft.
"We've had no end of problems with him because of the weather and I'm chuffed as to how it's all worked out," said Ewart.
"I'm not sure how far he can go, but he might still be improving. He's much more professional now. He's settled before his races, when in the past he used to get worked up."
Diarmuid O'Regan came in for the ride with regular partner Dale Irving injured, and Ewart had words of sympathy for Irving.
He said: "It's hard on Dale as he's done a lot for the horse. We snapped up Diarmuid because we wanted another good claimer."
Aristo Du Plessis is pencilled in for a race at Cheltenham on January 30 in his build-up to the Scottish Champion Hurdle.