Hammond priming Fighting Fifth winner Cornerstone Lad for Champion Hurdle trial
Micky Hammond is adopting a one-race-at-a-time approach for Cornerstone Lad, with Haydock's Champion Hurdle trial the next stop for the trainer's surprise Fighting Fifth Hurdle winner.
A 16-1 shot at Newcastle, Cornerstone Lad provided one of the biggest shocks of recent seasons when derailing Buveur D'Air's bid for a third consecutive win in the Grade 1 race last November.
While many of the post-race headlines focused on the injury Buveur D'Air suffered during the race – an injury which has left the nine-year-old sidelined for the foreseeable future – Cornerstone Lad gave Hammond and jockey Henry Brooke their maiden victories at the highest level.
Although still unfancied for the Champion Hurdle at a general 33-1, Cornerstone Lad could demonstrate that those odds should be shorter if winning the Unibet-backed trial convincingly at Haydock on January 18.
Speaking on Sunday, Hammond said: "He's fine; he's taken the race well and the plan is to go to Haydock. It was very unfortunate, the injury Buveur D'Air suffered, but the form has been franked well by Silver Streak and Lady Buttons."
Hammond added: "He's definitely better with cut or dig in the ground and the Haydock trial was the obvious race to go for next.
"He was second in a Victor Ludorum there as a juvenile hurdler, so the track should suit."
When asked about the chances of Cornerstone Lad lining up in the Unibet Champion Hurdle, Hammond was non-committal and the trainer already has one eye on next season for the horse.
"He's got a rating of 159 so handicaps will be difficult off that mark," he added. "We feel he's come along nicely since Newcastle, we were delighted to win that race and will go from there. We're hoping he will make a very nice two-mile chaser next season."
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