Llandinabo Lad bids to provide trainer Tom Symonds with his second big-race victory in the space of a week in the Sky Bet Supreme Trial Novices’ Hurdle at Ascot on Friday.
Six days on from stable star Song For Someone’s narrow triumph in the International Hurdle at Cheltenham, the home-bred Llandinabo Lad bids to extend his unbeaten record over obstacles to three in the Grade Two contest.
The five-year-old has proved his ability to handle testing conditions in winning at both Bangor and Haydock – and Symonds feels the more demanding nature of the track at Ascot could see him in an even better light.
“He’s in good form, and I hope this race will tell us a bit more about where we are,” said the Herefordshire-based trainer.
“We’ve been very pleased with him since his last run. We were talking about the Tolworth Hurdle at Sandown after Haydock – but this race came up on soft ground, and I thought we might as well have a go, because you can wait for certain races and the weather intervenes or whatever.
“I have slightly changed the plan, but I thought this race looked a nice opportunity in terms of where it lands in the calendar.
“We’d like a lot of rain, but not so much that the meeting’s abandoned!”
Nicky Henderson has saddled three of the last six winners of the race – and having decided against running ante-post favourite Dusart, the Seven Barrows handler instead relies on Sandown bumper scorer No Ordinary Joe, who makes his hurdling debut.
Henderson said: “Dusart was just a little bit quiet on Tuesday. We scoped him, and everything was all right, but we just couldn’t take a chance. He was just a little bit quieter than he should be. We checked him over, and he seems 100 per cent.
“No Ordinary Joe will now come into this. He won his bumper well at Sandown, and I think he is going to be a nice horse.
“I know we are running him first time over hurdles in a Grade Two, but we think he is capable of such a move.
“No Ordinary Joe schools very well. He has had the one bumper run, and I think it is the right time to go over hurdles now.”
Dan Skelton’s My Drogo, Jonjo O’Neill’s Soaring Glory, the Kim Bailey-trained Shantou Express and Press Your Luck from Chris Gordon’s yard complete the line-up.
Six runners were also declared for the other Grade Two on Friday’s card – the Sky Bet Noel Novices’ Chase.
They include the Evan Williams-trained Bold Plan, who bounced back from an underwhelming debut over fences at Uttoxeter when inflicting a surprise defeat on The Big Breakaway at Exeter a fortnight ago.
“It will be tough task for him, giving away weight (3lb) to the rest of them, but the little horse is in good form,” said Williams.
“He has bounced out of Exeter. I think this is a hotter race and possibly deeper waters, but it’s worth a crack.”
Henderson runs Allart, who makes his chasing bow and first competitive appearance since finishing fifth behind esteemed stable Shishkin in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival in March.
The two at the top of the market are the Paul Nicholls-trained Pic D’Orhy and Colin Tizzard’s Fiddlerontheroof, with Skelton’s Antunes and Kiltealy Briggs from Jamie Snowden’s yard the other hopefuls.
Assessing his runner, Nicholls told Betfair: “It was frustrating to see him fall late on at Ascot last time, because he had jumped brilliantly until then and was bang there going well when it happened.
“I’m hoping he has learned from it, and he has done plenty of schooling in the last few weeks. For all his talent from day one, Pic D’Orhy has never been a natural over fences, so I always knew it would take him time to get the hang of things.
“He is getting there now – and with slower ground in his favour, I’m looking for an improved show from him.”
Seven horses contest the Listed Enter ITV7 Tonight Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race, including Nicholls’ pair of Knappers Hill and Stage Star, and two course-and-distance winners in Graeme McPherson’s Marble Sands and Richard Spencer’s Wonderwall.