Skelton out to hit the heights again with North Hill Harvey
Randox Health County Handicap Hurdle (Grade 3) | 5yo+ 2m1f | ITV/RUK
Can lightning strike twice is the burning question despite a full field of 26 as trainer Dan Skelton bids to repeat last year's win.
Punters latched on to his North Hill Harvey as soon as he was entered as the Greatwood Hurdle winner is following exactly the same road as that race's runner-up Superb Story, in that he has not run again since the November race.
What's more North Hill Harvey is a representative of last year's Supreme Novices' Hurdle form, a race that has been franked time and again this season.
Plenty have Cheltenham form, with a Triumph Hurdle winner in Ivanovich Gorbatov, a Fred Winter winner Diego Du Charmil and a Champion Hurdle second in Arctic Fire, who had been runner-up in this race the year before.
Before Superb Story's win at 8-1 last year this was a race for longer prices, with a 50-1 and 25-1 winner plus two at 20-1 in the last ten years.
What they say
Willie Mullins, trainer of Arctic Fire and Renneti
Renneti goes in the same race and a lot is going to depend on how he behaves at the start. He is a bit of an enigma and has a tendency to be slowly away. If he jumps off without giving away a lot of ground he has the ability to run a big race and he's got each-way possibilities, if you're prepared to take that chance.
Nicky Henderson, trainer of L’Ami Serge
We’ve been switching codes with him this season and he takes a drop in grade here. He’s a high-class horse but you need luck on your side in this race.
Joseph O'Brien, trainer of Ivanovich Gorbatov
We all know he loves the track given the way he won the Triumph, and the horse seems in good order again. He'll like the ground and JJ's [Slevin] claim will certainly be a help. I'm looking forward to the race.
Paul Nicholls, trainer of Diego Du Charmil
He won the Fred Winter last year and won well at Musselburgh recently. He went up 9lb so that makes life harder. As long as the ground stays good that'll suit him well.
Dan Skelton, trainer of North Hill Harvey, Bertimont and Mohaayed
I'm very happy with North Hill Harvey, who has been going for the race since winning the Greatwood. The ground will be fine for him and we know he's effective round the track. Mohaayed has sneaked in at the bottom after we gambled on him getting in rather than going for the Supreme. A fast-run race like this will suit him. Bertimont has shown some better form the last twice and is clawing his way back to where we want to be with him.
Evan Williams, trainer of Court Minstrel
Like a lot of my old horses he's been out of form all winter. Sometimes it can spark them when they go to Cheltenham, like we saw with Buywise the other day, and he's in great form. But he's hardly improving.
Warren Greatrex, trainer of Boite
He ran well in the Betfair, where he had a lot of weight, which wouldn’t suit him as he's not overly big. We rode him a bit too positively and he's been dropped 2lb, and the way this race will be run we can just take our time a bit more. He's a two-and-a-half-miler with the pace for two and he's in really good form. I think he'll run above his price.
Alan King, trainer of Winter Escape
I thought he was an exciting horse at the start of the season and I still think he is. He was sick after disappointing in the Greatwood in November but I’ve been very happy with him in the last two or three weeks. He’s a good-ground horse and any rain would count against him.
Noel Meade, trainer of Joey Sasa and De Name Escapes Me
The better ground will suit Joesy Sasa and we've always thought he was a lovely horse. He has a nice enough weight and seems in great form.
De Name Escapes Me wouldn't mind if a bit of rain. I fancied him to run a big race last time but he was disappointing so is on a retrieval mission.
Harry Fry, trainer of Air Horse One
He's on a roll but this is going to be tougher off an 8lb higher mark. I think the slight drop back in trip in a strongly-run race will suit him better than the Coral Cup, which was his other option.
Richard Newland, trainer of Vosne Romanee
He made tremendous progress last spring and enjoys better ground. He's been trained for the race so it's now just a case of seeing whether he's good enough.
Nigel Twiston-Davies, trainer of Crievehill
He's a novice in a handicap and hopefully the handicapper hasn't caught up with him yet. We like him a lot.
Philip Hobbs, trainer of Wait For Me and Ozzie The Oscar
Wait For Me ran well in the race last year and the better ground will be in his favour, while Ozzie The Oscar would have a small each-way chance.
Brian Ellison, trainer of Dominada
He's done well all year and the faster the ground the better for him.
Seamus Mullins, trainer of Song Light
It's great he's just scraped in. He's in tremendous form and I seriously give him a live each-way chance. Cheltenham will suit him better than Newbury, as will a faster pace than they went there as he travels so well in his races.