Richard Rowe is looking to provide James Davies with a notable success when Up The Straight takes his chance in the Ballymore Winter Novices’ Hurdle at Sandown on Friday.
Davies’ sole victory at Grade Two level in Britain came when he teamed up with French trainer Marcel Rolland to win the Wayward Lad Novices’ Chase at Kempton on Original at 66-1 in 2008.
Up The Straight was a 33-1 winner himself on his debut for Rowe at Lingfield – but he looked full of potential and his trainer has high hopes for the rest of the season.
“We’re not a gambling yard, so our confidence would never reflect in the betting, but I was quietly confident,” said Rowe.
“My biggest worry was the heavy ground, it was his first run for me and you never really know until you’ve run them on it.
“He’d shown me a lot of pace at home, but soft ground can blunt that. Thankfully it didn’t.
“It will be gluey ground at Sandown, whereas it was sloppy at Lingfield, so he’ll need to overcome that this time.
“He came out of his race good, it’s early enough in the season to test him and if he’s good enough, fine, but if he’s not the handicapper will adjust accordingly – we’ve got the EBF final up our sleeves.
“It’s a fact-finding mission to see if it was a fluke, but personally I don’t think it was, as I think he’s a very nice horse. He needs to go and prove it.”
Rowe has had one placed in the race before – back in 1995, when it turned out his Eulogy, a smart horse in his own right, faced a pretty stiff task.
“I got beaten in this years ago with what I thought was a very nice horse,” said Rowe.
“I walked off the stands with the winning trainer, Paul Nicholls, who told me his was a very nice horse. His was See More Business, who won the Gold Cup and whatever else and mine was Eulogy, who won the Whitbread.”
Nicholls has a runner again this year in Enrilo.
Olly Murphy’s Overthetop is aiming to maintain his unbeaten record in point-to-points and under rules, having looked promising on his hurdling bow at Carlisle.
“He’s a horse who looks progressive, but obviously this is a big step up in grade,” said Murphy.
“He’s a horse I’ve always liked and he’s a real staying chaser in the making.
“I’d say two and a half miles around Sandown will suit him well.
“We’re looking forward to running him and we’ll know where we stand going into the rest of the season after this.”
Colin Tizzard’s Ofalltheginjoints, Kim Bailey’s Happy Go Lucky, Dan Skelton’s Emmas Joy and the Paul Webber-trained House Island complete the field.