Ballyoptic focus on Wetherby
View from connections ahead of the bet365 West Yorkshire Hurdle at Wetherby on Saturday.
Ballyoptic has done everything asked of him so far
Jockey Ryan Hatch is hopeful Ballyoptic can extend his winning run in the bet365 West Yorkshire Hurdle at Wetherby on Saturday.
The Irish point-to-point graduate was something of a surprise winner on his hurdling debut and first start for Nigel Twiston-Davies at Ffos Las in February, but followed up in style at Uttoxeter before completing his hat-trick in Grade One company at Aintree.
Twiston-Davies identified the Silver Trophy at Chepstow as a seasonal starting point for his charge and after a tenacious comeback success, he now lines as a hot favourite for the Grade Two over three miles.
Hatch said: "He's unbeaten for us and ever since he won his first race at Ffos Las he has just kept improving.
"I had a great day on him in Aintree and we were delighted with him at Chepstow the other week.
"Two and a half (miles) was on the short side for him, but he travelled up well with those horses and showed a really good attitude at the end of the race.
"Hopefully he'll improve for the run, he's done everything we've asked of him so far and we'll give it our best shot."
The Colin Tizzard-trained Native River won a Grade One novice chase at Aintree in the spring, but reverts to hurdling ahead of a likely tilt at the Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury on November 26.
With the Dorset handler holding a formidable hand in the staying division over fences, he is not ruling out going back hurdling with Native River, if he proves his capabilities at Wetherby.
"We wanted to give him a run before the Hennessy and we had this idea to go over hurdles as there is not really anything else for him," said Tizzard.
"We thought if we did go and win a chase he would go up the handicap .
"He will like the good ground. He is a good horse and he will be fine on Saturday. He has done plenty of work, as much as the other two (Thistlecrack and Cue Card).
"With the view that Thistlecrack and Cue Card might both go the Gold Cup route if he (Cue Card) wins on Saturday (in the Charlie Hall Chase),
Native River might be switched to the World Hurdle route."
The Romford Pele is another horse who has mixed it over both fences and hurdles, even running in last season's Grand National.
He rounded off his campaign with a fine effort over smaller obstacles at Punchestown and made a flying start to this term with victory at Newton Abbot three weeks ago.
Trainer Rebecca Curtis said: "He's in great form and I was really impressed with him at Newton Abbot last time.
"For whatever reason, he really seems to have improved from the second half of last season into this season. I suppose it's just because he's getting older and stronger.
"This is a step back up in class, but he doesn't have much to find on the ratings, so we'll see what happens."
With his newly-purchased Albert Bartlett winner Unowhatimeanharry not declared, leading owner JP McManus relies upon the Philip Hobbs-trained If In Doubt.
Neil King's stable star Lil Rockerfeller makes his first appearance since finishing seventh in the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham in March.
Champion trainer Paul Nicholls saddles Silsol, while Malcolm Jefferson's Oscar Rock completes the line-up.