Course-and-distance winners battle it out for valuable Taunton prize
C&S Electrical Wholesale Handicap Hurdle | Class 2 | 2m½f | 4yo+ | RUK
Tuesday's feature Class 2 handicap hurdle has an impressive roll of honour with Sire De Grugy, Fox Norton, Royal Vacation and Tommy Silver all recent winners, but there doesn't look to be a standout this year with the contest looking super competitive.
The west country track has put up £18,500 in prize-money for the race and, while there are only seven runners, four course-and-distance winners feature among them, with a further two successful over the trip and the other arguably the pick at the weights.
It will not surprise anyone that the form pick is trained by Dr Richard Newland, whose Caid Du Lin is just 1lb higher than when beaten half a length into second by A Hare Breath in a Listed handicap hurdle at Sandown just three starts ago.
The start before that he was second again at Huntingdon, to the reopposing Unison, and they meet once more with Caid Du Lin 7lb better off for that four-and-a-half-length defeat.
What they say
Jeremy Scott, trainer of Unison
He's got a lot of weight, which is my main worry. The horse is well and we were considering taking 7lb off but Matt's got on so well with the horse that he could be worth 7lb anyway. It's a very competitive race – we beat the Newland horse off level weights at Huntingdon but we're giving him 7lb here, so he'd have to improve again to win it.
Paul Nicholls, trainer of Coillte Lass
She's been chasing and hasn't been successful. I wanted to give her a spin over hurdles to do something different with her to try and spark her back into life. Her hurdle mark is quite high so I thought we'd try and take 7lb off.
Richard Newland, trainer of Caid Du Lin
It's a slight drop in grade from where he has been competing. He was disappointing at Ascot last time but I think a combination of the distance and the ground probably just found him out a bit. He's been busy for quite a long time but, if we've got him back on top form, he's got a chance.
Dan Skelton, trainer of Hurricane Hollow
He was second last time – it was a good run and we're going to keep trying until we win one. The handicapper put him up for contesting a four-runner race so it's not going to be easy, but he'll run his race.
Robert Walford, trainer of Our Merlin
He's in good form and it looks a suitable race. He's had a great season – he's done really well for us. The handicapper might have him now, though.
Harry Fry, trainer of Black Mischief
He's dropping back in trip, he looked like winning turning in at Huntingdon on Boxing Day and possibly didn't quite get home. It's a valuable race just down the road but the ground is probably still a bit slow for him. We'll take our chance.
Tim Vaughan, trainer of Dovils Date
He has been as tough as teak for us and done a lot of winning. We're just trying to nick a bit of prize-money more than anything else. Realistically he's probably still a bit high in the weights over jumps. He's in good form, we're keen to run and we're trying to find the best ground we can.
Triumph Hurdle contender?
Chatteris Fen winner Esprit De Somoza will attempt to further his Triumph Hurdle claims when taking on his elders in the C&S Electrical Wholesale Termination Technology Novices' Hurdle (2.10) at Taunton.
A five-length winner at Huntingdon from one-time ante-post favourite Gumball, Nick Williams' juvenile is currently a 25-1 shot for the JCB-sponsored day four curtain raiser but that could well change if he runs out a ready winner.
Long term planning
The 2018 Cheltenham Festival may come too soon for the winner of Clonmel's Grade 3 Surehaul Mercedes-Benz Novice Hurdle (2.50) with the big show only three weeks away, but the winner is worth sticking in the notebook anyway as it is a race that has a big impact on the following season's Graded chases.
Cooldine and Don Poli both went on to win the RSA Chase, while last year's winner Monalee, who went on to finish second to Penhill in the Albert Bartlett last season, is second favourite for this year's race.
Gordon Elliott has a strong hand with Monkshood (Jack Kennedy) and Burren Life (Davy Russell) as he bids to further increase his lead over Willie Mullins in the trainers' championship.
Read exclusive previews of from 6pm tonight on racingpost.com