Supreme Novices’ Hurdle contenders go on trial at Ascot

Thomas Campbell (nearside) has won his last three starts

PICTURE: Getty Images Supreme contenders
go on trial at Ascot By Andrew Dietz 9:25AM 16 DEC 2016

Preview: Friday, Ascot

Sky Bet Supreme Trial Novices' Hurdle (registered as the Kennel Gate) (Grade 2) 1m7½f, 4yo+

NICKY HENDERSON has decided to hold back ante-post Supreme Novices' Hurdle favourite Jenkins until Kempton's Christmas meeting but still possesses strong claims of registering a third success in the race since 2011 with Lough Derg Spirit leading a dual assault.

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The forecast favourite, bought for £190,000 at the Tattersalls sales for owners Mike Grech and Stuart Parkin, made the perfect start under rules when winning over hurdles at Kempton for today's jockey Jerry McGrath, who had problems pulling his mount up.

Lough Derg Spirit was allowed to dictate last time and impressed with his slick jumping to score by three and a half lengths, after which he was installed at 16-1 for the Cheltenham Festival curtain-raiser in March.

"I don't think he beat an awful lot but he looked very good doing it," said Henderson. "He's very quick and sharp and his jumping was great, but it's a big step up in class. It looks like good ground suits him so it's an opportunity while the ground is like that."

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Lough Derg Spirit will be joined by his Barry Geraghty-ridden stablemate Thomas Campbell, winner of both his starts over hurdles this season including over course and distance last month.

"He's won at Cheltenham and Ascot and his experience is going to keep on helping him because he's only a baby," Henderson said.

"Again it's a big step up but he's been doing it all well and is learning how to knuckle down."

Alan King, who took the race with Yanworth last year, relies on ex-Godolphin Flat performer Keep In Line, who won at Bangor and Huntingdon before finishing fourth behind Moon Racer at Cheltenham's Open meeting.

"I want to give him one more run over two miles in a good race just to see where he is," said the trainer, who also won the contest in 2008 with Medermit.

"We thought after his last outing at Cheltenham over that trip he might benefit from going up in distance and we just need to see what trip will suit.

"He was a good Flat horse and he's taken to the job well and I think he's one of our better novice hurdlers."

Better ground to suit

Capitaine failed in his bid to give chunks of weight away to gutsy mare Tahira at Haydock last time and Paul Nicholls is hoping he can bounce back.

"It was my fault in some ways in that I told Harry [Cobden] to drop him right out and I think the winner had the run of the race, but he had been a bit keen before that," said the trainer.

"Better ground and a nice gallop will suit, but he has it all to do as he picked up a maximum penalty for winning a two-runner race at Wincanton."

Captain Forez finished third behind Jenkins at Newbury on his first start for Dan Skelton, who said: "He ran very well first time and has improved for the run. He is every inch a chaser, but we're looking forward to running him."

The six-strong field is completed by the Amanda Perrett-trained Blue Surf, who achieved a peak official rating of 102 on the Flat and was a winner at Plumpton on his second start over hurdles.

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