Shantou Village makes early return at Fontwell
Shantou Village (nearside) battling with Yanworth
PICTURE: Mark Cranham (racingpost.com/photos) Shantou Village makes early return at Fontwell By Scott Burton 8:00AM 25 AUG 2016
WITH the possible exception of the occasional French import burning up the gallops at Willie Mullins' base in Carlow, the last week in August is rarely a time for bookmakers to be shuffling the Cheltenham ante-post decks.
That may change this afternoon as Neil Mulholland gives the hugely talented Shantou Village his first outing over fences at Fontwell over 2m5f.
Explaining the early start, Mulholland said: "He's not a winter horse and he won't be running in December or January. We ran him once in January last season to see if he handled the soft ground and he didn't. His last two wins were on good ground and that's what it will be here."
Shantou Village recorded wide-margin victories at Carlisle and Cheltenham last autumn and, following that defeat to Yanworth in January, Mulholland stepped the six-year-old up to three miles in the Albert Bartlett Novices Hurdle at the festival.
Sent off the 7-2 favourite, Shantou Village was pulled up by Richard Johnson after having been struck into.
"He was alright after pretty quickly and we were just very lucky it wasn't something more serious," said Mulholland. "He won his only point-to-point so we're very happy with his jumping."
Chief market rival in the four runner affair is the Paul Nicholls-trained Abidjan, who carries a 6lb penalty for his win at Newton Abbot in May.
Mulholland also saddles Code Of Law, who failed to break his duck under rules in three attempts over hurdles.
"He will be looking for a bit of experience and most of the syndicate that own him are local," said Mulholland.
"He's been twice placed in a point to point and any time you can go to a track local to your owners and pick up some prize money, it makes sense."