One primed for hat-trick bid
View from connections ahead of the stanjames.com Champion Hurdle Trial at Haydock where The New One bids for a third win.
The New One bids for a third win in the race
Nigel Twiston-Davies feels The New One will have his work cut out to win the stanjames.com Champion Hurdle Trial for the third year running at Haydock.
The nine-year-old has lifted this prize for the past two winters, but Twiston-Davies reckons this renewal is tougher and it will be harder for his stable stalwart to concede 8lb to some of his rivals.
However, The New One has been in fine form this season, after plans to send him novice chasing were put on hold.
Victory in the International Hurdle at Cheltenham was followed by second place behind Yanworth in the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton.
"It was a very good run at Kempton. They harassed him all the way, which didn't really help," said the Naunton handler.
"This is probably better than the last two renewals he has won, but he in as good a form as he has ever been.
"I don't think the really soft ground probably suits him, but there are no other races to go for.
"It is a concern that he has to give weight away and I would rather run him in Grade One where he has no penalty to carry, but there are none left before Cheltenham in this country."
Irving is said to be in tip-top condition as he has his first run since claiming the Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle eight weeks ago.
Connections of the Paul Nicholls-trained nine-year-old are optimistic of a bold show, especially if there is more rain.
"We're happy with him. He's in really good form and has been freshened up since the Fighting Fifth," said Dan Downie, racing manager for owners Axom.
"He tends to go well fresh and this is the longest break he's had after his first run of the season.
"Fingers crossed, he seems in really good order. Obviously he's another year older now and he's got some younger legs to beat, but we couldn't be happier with him.
"The ground is currently soft. Any more rain would be fine and the softer the better for him. He's won at Haydock before. The flat track suits him, so we'd be hopeful if he'd run well."
Evan Williams has been delighted with the Clyne's progress this season and is giving the seven-year-old a chance in exalted company after two wins over the course and distance this season.
"He's had a wonderful season. It's just nice to be able to run in a race like this," said the Llancarfan trainer.
"It's a massive step up in class, but what else can we do? He just loves the track and he's in great form."
Cyrus Darius returns to the fray after being off the track since he made a successful debut over fences at Perth 16 months ago.
The lightly-raced eight-year-old had won all his three starts over hurdles the previous season and trainer Malcolm Jefferson explained why he is going back over hurdles for the time being.
"We have decided to go back over hurdles for now. He improved a lot over hurdles and ended up being quite impressive at Aintree," said Jefferson, whose charge has a Champion Hurdle entry..
"The owners have said they would like to have a go over hurdles, so we will see how things go on Saturday before deciding what we do for the rest of the season.
"He is a big horse and is as ready as I can get him at home. He has done a lot of steady work, which has gradually built up, and his schooling has been very good.
"He is in great nick, but it is his first run for a long time and, at this time of year, you are meeting race-fit horses on testing ground.
"I am expecting him to run a real nice race, although if he does need it he won't be knocked about."
Nicky Henderson's L'Ami Serge, a two-time novice chase winner last term, sticks to hurdles after putting in a decent effort when going down by a neck to Agrapart in the Relkeel at Cheltenham on New Year's Day.
Jockey Daryl Jacob told www.sportinglife.com: "We're dropping L'Ami Serge back in trip.
"He jumped, travelled and did everything right at Cheltenham on New Year's Day but just didn't quite get up the hill.
"We need to find out what direction to go with the horse and this race will tell us an awful lot. It looks an open contest and will be a good test with The New One in there but we are getting weight from him and I'm looking forward to seeing what my fellow does."
The Jeremy Scott-trained Melodic Rendezvous, who took this prize in 2014 and was third to The New One last January, completes the line-up.