Haydock’s Unibet Champion Hurdle Trial is likely to be the next target for surprise Fighting Fifth winner Cornerstone Lad.
The five-year-old was providing trainer Micky Hammond and jockey Henry Brooke with their respective first Grade One wins when he scored by a short head at Newcastle on Saturday.
While the race was slightly marred by the injury to Buveur D’Air, the narrow runner-up, Cornerstone Lad still had last year’s Champion Hurdle third Silver Streak and the smart mare Lady Buttons beaten off.
“He’s very well. He ate up last night, he’s been for a pick of grass – although it was a bit frosty – so all in all, we’re delighted,” said Hammond.
“The Haydock Champion Hurdle Trial (on January 18) is definitely an option for him.
“It’s in January, it’s generally soft or heavy ground – and I won it a few years ago with Deep Water, who was smart on his day. This fellow could be even better, hopefully.
“It was a good, workmanlike, solid performance. Henry gave him a very good ride – the third horse Silver Streak was third in the Champion Hurdle, and the fourth Lady Buttons is very good.
“Obviously we now know Buveur D’Air picked up an injury, and we’re sorry about that. As I said before, I’m a big fan of his, so I hope he makes a full recovery.
Hammond acknowledges conditions suited Cornerstone Lade very well on Saturday, but points out he has winning form on a less demanding surface too.
“My lad is very effective on testing ground,” said the Middleham trainer.
“He does have form on good to soft, and at some stage we’ll have to run him on it again, but he has a rotavating action that gets him through soft ground very well.
“Henry nicked a few lengths at the start. We were hoping something else would go on with us. But Henry decided to get on with it, and fortunately we jumped well down the back straight – which meant we had a good advantage turning for home.
“It did get tougher from the second last to the line, but he did keep going and ran through the line well. I think he’ll get further if he has to, and he’s still well handicapped on the Flat off 71!”