Beer Goggles is set to make his long-awaited return against the mighty Paisley Park in the Ladbrokes Long Distance Hurdle.
Nicky Martin’s eight-year-old won the Newbury Grade Two on his penultimate start back in 2017, but has been absent for almost two years due to the injury he suffered in the following month’s Cleeve Hurdle at Cheltenham.
Martin is not expecting an instant return to Beer Goggles’ glory days, at the scene of his greatest triumph, and bookmakers understandably make him a 33-1 outsider on Friday to regain his title at the chief expense of brilliant Stayers’ Hurdle winner Paisley Park.
“The plan is to go – if it doesn’t rain too much, he will,” said the Minehead trainer.
She has owned the Oscar gelding under her Bradley Partnership banner since 2016 – but he was trained by Richard Woollacott when he famously sprang a 40-1 surprise in this race a year later.
Martin has nursed Beer Goggles back to full health and fitness, and has been determined to stay patient before sending him back to the races again.
She added: “He just did a bit of a tendon (at Cheltenham). He had a very small hole, so he had stem cells.
“We were going to run him at the back-end of last year, scanned him and decided another summer would benefit.
“He’s had all the time he can have.”
Preparation has gone well so far, but Newbury will inevitably reveal much more about Beer Goggles’ retained ability and racing future.
Martin hopes she has him as fit as possible to return.
“He did a racecourse gallop at Chepstow three weeks ago and came home intact,” she said.
“He schooled on Tuesday and he was intact on Wednesday morning. So, fingers crossed.
“You just don’t know. We might only get the one run, or he might be around forever.
“He’s only eight years old, so that’s why we gave him time – he had time on his side.”
The quandary was to find the right comeback race – with opportunities scarce, because Beer Goggles remains a highly-rated hurdler despite his absence.
“He’s limited on where he can go – it’s a very big race for a horse who’s had two years off, but where else do we go?” Martin asked.
“He did get his injury at Cheltenham, so I’m sort of reluctant to send him back down that hill again.
“Newbury is flat, he’s won there, so it’s a good starting point.”