Southfield Theatre heads strong Paul Nicholls raid on Musselburgh's opening day
The countdown to the Cheltenham Festival continues this weekend as Musselburgh host its annual Scottish Cheltenham Trials Weekend.
Paul Nicholls looks set to have a major say at Saturday’s meeting, where he will contest six of the seven races.
And he will hope that Southfield Theatre can put his last performance behind him in the bet365 Edinburgh National Handicap Chase (3.15).
The ten-year-old was pulled up by Sam Twiston-Davies at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day in conditions that were against him.
“You can put a line through his last run as it came on heavy ground,” Nicholls said. “He’s got bits and pieces of form that would give him a real chance. He needs good ground, though.”
Nicholls also has a promising runner in the bet365 Scottish Future Champions Novices’ Chase (1.30) with Peter The Mayo Man.
“He won nicely last time and loves good ground,” Nicholls said. “There are only five runners but it looks a tough race.”
The Ditcheat trainer believes Marracudja will enjoy the ground in the bet365 Scottish Champion Chase (2.45).
Ballyoptic bids to resume winning ways
A competitive field will line up at Wetherby in the totesport.com Towton Novices’ Chase, with connections hoping market leader Ballyoptic can get back to winning ways (2.40).
The eight-year-old is without a win in his last two outings, most recently at Kempton on Boxing Day when he put in a disappointing show in the Kauto Star Novices’ Chase.
However, his trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies has a great record in the race, with his most recent victory coming courtesy of Blaklion two years ago.
Despite facing stern competition from Graeme McPherson’s Ami Desbois, Ballyoptic has been backed to set the record straight.
“He has got to get back on track a bit as he was disappointing at Kempton, but he seems in good form and we're hopeful,” Twiston-Davies said.
Haggas hopeful of big run from Victory Bond
William Haggas saddles the favourite Victory Bond in Lingfield’s Betway Winter Derby Trial (3.05).
The five-year-old will compete off the back of a fine performance at Wolverhampton last month when he beat Battalion by four lengths.
With two wins in three starts, he has taken well to the all-weather this winter and Haggas expects another good run.
He said: “Victory Bond has got a chance and he’s in really good form. He’s got a wide draw, which is a bit awkward, but he’s got a good jockey.”
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