Angels Breath belatedly kicks off his career under rules in a fascinating renewal of the Sky Bet Supreme Trial at Ascot on Friday.
An impressive winner of an Irish point-to-point in the spring, Nicky Henderson’s inmate was a heavily backed favourite to make a successful British debut at Cheltenham last Friday – only to be pulled out hours before the race due to unsuitable ground.
It is perhaps a measure of the regard in which he is held that he instead makes his hurdling debut in a Grade Two contest Henderson has won twice in the last four years, with L’Ami Serge (2014) and Claimantakinforgan (2017).
“Angels Breath came out of Cheltenham on account of the ground – but he is pretty forward, so we would like to run him on Friday,” said the Seven Barrows handler.
“He won his only point-to-point impressively and hopefully he has the attributes to do very well over hurdles.
“He is a nice-looking son of Shantou and is a horse I think an awful lot of.”
Angels Breath nonetheless faces a far from straightforward task, with five of his nine rivals already having won over hurdles at least once.
The Olly Murphy-trained Thomas Darby looked the part in a Huntingdon bumper in May and made a successful hurdling debut at Cheltenham in October – beating subsequent dual winner Elixir De Nutz.
The five-year-old suffered his first defeat when touched off by Didtheyleaveuoutto last month, but Murphy hopes there is more to come.
He said: “He galloped very well on Tuesday, and we just don’t want the ground too soft for him.
“He is in very good form. He came back good from his last run at Ascot, and I’ve not missed a beat with him.
“I’m looking forward to stepping him up in class again. I think he will be able to take it.
“Whether he is good enough to win I don’t know, but it looks the right race, and I wouldn’t swap him for anything else in the race.”
Seddon looked an exciting prospect for Tom George on his hurdling bow at Stratford, but could only finish third behind the aforementioned Elixir De Nutz when a hot favourite at Cheltenham last month.
Owner Max McNeill said of his latest assignment: “I think the world of this horse.
“He ran a little bit disappointing at Cheltenham after winning his first start at Stratford. We made the mistake of taking on a second-season novice in Elixir De Nutz – and the race played into his hands, because they didn’t jump as many hurdles and it turned into a bit of a sprint.
“I just think we came back a bit too soon with our horse – and I think we will see a different horse at Ascot.
“He did a piece of work last week which they were pleased with. He has been ticking over nicely.”
Encore Champs has won a Ffos Las bumper and a Wetherby novice hurdle for Warren Greatrex, who said: “I am quite keen to dip his toe in at this sort of level now.
“He is a very good hurdler, his technique is sound, and he is a strong traveller.
“He still managed to win at Wetherby, despite doing a lot wrong, and he came out of the race really well.”
Thistle Do Nicely is two from two over hurdles, scoring at Wincanton and Wetherby.
Trainer Jamie Snowden said: “Thistle Do Nicely is three from four now in his career, having won a bumper and two hurdle races.
“I thought he won nicely at Wincanton, when he was still pretty green, and improved on that when looking pretty useful in a novice at Wetherby.
“He is ready to step up in grade now, and we will find out how good he is on Friday.”
“Softer ground shouldn’t be a problem.”