Final bids to start with a bang and book return trip to Cheltenham
Pertemps Network Handicap Hurdle | 3m2f | RUK
Cup Final day in Scotland is the first Sunday in February, or that is how it is beginning to seem.
JP McManus's eight-year-old won the Pertemps Hurdle qualifier on this card last season – but was pulled up in the final at the Cheltenham Festival – and now returns 14lb higher in the weights and without a run in nine months.
However, he is reported in good shape by Nicky Henderson, who also took the only other running of this race with Dawalan in 2015.
Since this race was added to the Pertemps series in 2015, six of the horses who qualified through it have gone on to run in the final at Cheltenham. The best effort there was Taglietelle, who finished fourth last year, although Sky Khan was also third in the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys' Handicap Hurdle at the festival last season.
Needs to bounce back
Call The Cops won the Pertemps Final at Cheltenham when trained by Nicky Henderson but has not scored since and finished a remote eighth on his debut for Ben Haslam at Carlisle in December.
What they say
Nicky Henderson, trainer of Cup Final
He won this last year and he loves the ground. He hasn't run since he won at Punchestown but he's in good form.
Malcolm Jefferson, trainer of Oscar Rock
We've been waiting for the ground for him, he doesn't go on the heavy winter ground. If he qualified for the final he'd go to Cheltenham if the going is right.
Harry Fry, trainer of Wotzizname
He's two from two for us over hurdles. This is his handicap debut and we hope to qualify him for the final. The ground will be ideal. He ran over fences in November but he's had a wind operation since and we're preserving his novice status for next season.
Paul Nicholls, trainer of El Bandit
We had him ready in the autumn when he was still a novice and he won the Persian War and at Cheltenham, then I probably ran him too quick the next time. He's had a break and it would be nice to qualify him for the Pertemps.
Sam England, trainer of Alzammaar
I hope he has a decent chance, he has gone up in the weights again but he should run well. I was delighted with his run at Catterick and he's back up in trip, which should suit him, so we're hopeful.
Donald McCain, trainer of Clondaw Kaempfer
This is a lot tougher race than last time, but track, trip and ground are exactly what he wants now, so I hope he has a chance.
Sandy Thomson, trainer of Arthurs Secret
He's had a wee break and we're really pleased with him. He gets a lot of weight and we hope he'll run a big race. The three miles two may just stretch him but the ground will suit."