Nicky Henderson will bid to strike while the iron is hot with Verdana Blue in Sunday’s Unibet Greatwood Hurdle at Cheltenham.
An impressive winner at Wincanton in the Elite Hurdle last Saturday, the mare is back out again quickly under a 5lb penalty.
With Jerry McGrath once again in the plate, Henderson has decided to let her take her chance quickly while the good ground she so adores remains.
“She carries a 5lb penalty for winning the Elite Hurdle. She won the Elite Hurdle really well and likes good ground,” said Henderson.
“She is ground dependent. When the winter comes we might go back and have a couple of runs on the Flat. When the ground is good you have to keep going, as it won’t last forever.”
For McGrath it was his welcome turn in the spotlight, and Nico de Boinville’s continued absence means he keeps the ride.
“She’s incredible, she had fitness on her side but it was nice to win a big one on her. On good ground she’s got lots of gears and she showed all them at Wincanton,” he said.
Henderson also runs Charlie Parcs, the mount of Barry Geraghty.
Henderson said: “Charli Parcs is in good form and we’ve always thought he is quite good. He has been doing some funny things, but he did run in the Champion Hurdle last season.
“He is coming in fresh and well and is working very well, which he always does.
“He is a good horse in his own right. It is the sort of race he could be competitive in.”
One who has been well-backed this week has been Warren Greatrex’s Western Ryder, a smart novice last season.
“It’s obviously his first run in a handicap, but I’d like to think 145 is fair for what he’s done,” Greatrex told At The Races.
“As I’ve stated before, last year I think just didn’t pan out for him but he’s in great form.
“He went away for a gallop last week. He worked on Wednesday and Dicky (Richard Johnson) schooled him on Tuesday. Touch wood, everything has gone according to plan and he’s got good form round Cheltenham.
“We’ll learn a lot more on Sunday, but I’d like to think he’s in there off a nice mark.”
Nube Negra was third in the Fred Winter at the Festival for Dan and Harry Skelton, and has had a wind operation over the summer.
“It can be hard for the four-year-olds in their second season, but we couldn’t be happier with him,” said Harry Skelton.
“Hopefully he’s strengthened up well over the summer and we’re really happy with him.
“He ran a good race in the Fred Winter when I was probably a bit too handy and got there a bit soon, I’ll ride him for a bit more luck on Sunday and take my time.”
Caius Marcius represents Nicky Richards and after winning two nice pots finished third at Ascot in a hot race last time out.
“He ran three times over fences in the summer time and then we just thought we might switch back to hurdling and he’s done brilliant, he’s won twice and ran a good race back down at Ascot a fortnight ago,” said Richards.
“He’s ground dependent and it still seems to be in his favour so I don’t see why he shouldn’t run another good race and he’ll enjoy coming up that hill. He’ll probably get a winter break after Sunday.”
Kayley Woollacott is looking forward to putting Lalor over fences for the first time in public in the Racing Post Arkle Trophy Trial Novices’ Chase at Cheltenham on Sunday.
The Grade One-winning novice hurdler has been pleasing his trainer in his preparation.
“James Best schooled Lalor on Wednesday and he jumped really well. He’s looking very professional over his fences which is good to see,” Woollacott said on her Betway blog.
“He worked well on Tuesday also and won’t do much now, just a little canter each day, nothing too strenuous.
“He’s been ready to run for a while, but he looks happy and relaxed.
“We obviously would have liked to have seen a bit of rain at Cheltenham, but they’re very good at ensuring safe ground there so it’s all systems go.
“It looks a very good race, there are several Grade One winners in there and horses with experience over fences.
“As long as he comes back safe and sound having had a nice educational experience, that’s all we’re looking for. We’ve got a long-term plan working back from the spring.”
Defi Du Seuil, the top juvenile hurdler two seasons ago, makes his fencing debut in a fascinating contest.
“He has been absolutely fantastic. He has schooled three times and has been electric,” said trainer Philip Hobbs’ wife, Sarah.
“A lot of the juveniles don’t come back the year after and this horse had seven wins on the trot. He had a very hard season and we were not in the top form we should have been and things were not right at home, but we’ve rectified that.
“The horses are well now and we hope it keeps going.
“He ran twice last season and had quite a hard race in Ireland. JP (McManus, owner) had him at Martinstown and he came back a different horse.”
Henderson was pleased with the way Claimantakinforgan took to fences when winning on his debut and is keen to see how he gets on in this tougher race.
“He got the job done nicely at Uttoxeter on his chase debut and I think he will have come on for the run,” the Seven Barrows trainer said on his Unibet blog.
“I believe he’s an out-and-out two-miler and he should bounce off the ground, but taking on the likes of Defi Du Seuil is a completely different ball game.
“He’s in great form, however, and it will be interesting to see how he fares upped in grade.”
In-form jockey Skelton is hoping One For Billy can make amends for ducking out at the tapes on the run-in when holding every chance at Cheltenham last month.
“He has surprised us. We always thought he was a nice horse at home but he has just taken a while to strengthen up and become the horse we thought he was,” he said.
“He’s progressing and he’ll hold a good chance, it was just unfortunate what happened last time, it was no fault of the horse’s or mine. Hopefully it will never happen again, I just think the tape was lower than the rail.”
Olly Murphy is hoping Itchy Feet can continue to show improvement in the Sky Bet Supreme Trial Novices’ Hurdle. The four-year-old has won both his starts over obstacles at Southwell and Kempton last month.
“Itchy Feet came out of Kempton in good form. He led, but that wasn’t the plan. He had the least experience in the field, but he won well,” said Murphy.
“It was a good performance and he is progressing with each run.”
Tom George is happy to give Seddon his chance after the five-year-old got off the mark at Stratford on his first try over jumps.
“He made a good start to his hurdling career at Stratford. It looks like a nice race for him. We’re stepping him up in grade a bit now. He’s ready and we’ll see how he goes.”
Kim Bailey sees Two For Gold as a horse for the future and is keen to get him started over hurdles.
“He has schooled well and is a nice horse. He is not a hurdler, though, as he is a big horse,” said Bailey.
“We were going to go to Ffos Las last weekend, but we changed our mind. He has been waiting to go for a while and Ffos Las was number one on the list, but when the rain came it turned the ground horrible.
“If he is not good enough, he is not good enough, but we will find out on Sunday. He will not be knocked about whatever on Sunday as he has long-term future.”