Emma Lavelle is feeling no extra pressure as she prepares to run Eclair Surf, part-owned by Newbury chairman Dominic Burke, in the Betway Challow Hurdle Novices’ Hurdle at his own course.
Burke’s partner in Eclair Surf is staunch stable supporter Tim Syder, and the five-year-old made a promising start to hurdling with a comfortable victory at Exeter last month.
He faces a much sterner test on Saturday, stepped up to Grade One company, but Lavelle is keen to gauge his potential.
“The chairman owns half of him – but at no point did I feel undue pressure from his connections to go to Newbury,” she said.
“I think they are excited that we are.”
Lavelle is confident too that the Califet gelding has done enough to justify his early elevation to the top level.
“Eclair Surf is a lovely big horse,” she added.
“He’s done nothing wrong. He’ll love the soft ground. It’s a competitive race, as it always is, but he’ll be an interesting runner.
“He couldn’t have had a better preparation, and we’ll just see if he’s up to this level or not.
“He’s come on a lot for that. He’s a genuine galloper. He’s a cracking horse for the future over fences, and we’ll just see what level he can go to over hurdles.”
Philip Hobbs rates Thyme Hill the pick of his novice hurdlers, as the five-year-old bids to take his 100 per cent record over hurdles to three and emulate Fingal Bay – winner of this race in 2011 for the Minehead trainer.
“His hurdling career couldn’t have started any better,” said Hobbs.
“It’s all gone very well. I think he probably is the best of our novices this season, but we have others to run yet.
“He is very genuine, goes well on soft ground and is in very good form. He would have to be one of my best novices since Fingal Bay – I think Thyme Hill will be my first Challow Hurdle runner since then.”
Stick With Bill got off the mark over hurdles at the second attempt at Ffos Las, and his trainer Harry Whittington is expecting a decent run.
“He’s a nice young horse that we’ve always liked a lot,” said the Oxfordshire trainer.
“He’s got good bumper form and has done nothing wrong over hurdles so far.
“The very soft conditions will suit him well – and with a small field I hope he can run a big race. It’s worth having a go at.”
Paul Nicholls runs Sandown Grade Two scorer Enrilo, and Nicky Henderson saddles The Cashel Man – winner of a Newbury handicap hurdle – in an intriguing five-runner contest.
Nicholls said: “I was umming and ahing, as he had a hard race three weeks ago at Sandown but he hasn’t shown he has a had a hard race and seems fine.
“There is nothing much else for him for a little while and it is nice race to run him in, but Philip’s horse will be hard to beat.
“He is a nice horse, but he will be a lovely chaser in 12 months’ time. You can forget his run at Ludlow before Sandown, as it never really happened for him that day and it was just one of those things.
“The ground won’t be an issue, as it was really soft at Sandown the other day and the track will suit him better being a flat track. He has won two, including a Grade Two, and it’s not easy to find races for him.
“He will have a break after this.”