Alsa Mix can step up again at Newbury
CHAMP attempts to graduate from a handicap to Grade One level when he lines-up for the Betway Challow Hurdle at Newbury today.
While the company will be a different kind of test, Champ is proven over this extended two and a half miles as he won a handicap in good style at the Berkshire venue four weeks ago.
The Nicky Hendersontrained six-year-old was having his first run for six months and only his fourth start over hurdles on that occasion.
“He came out of the last race very well,” said Frank Berry, racing manager to owner JP McManus. “It’s a good field and we’re looking for a good run.”
Alsa Mix has had even less experience but has won both her starts over the smaller obstacles in promising fashion, taking the step from a novice event at Exeter to a Grade Two at Sandown in her stride.
Trainer Alan King has no qualms about taking on the geldings with his sixyear-old mare.
“Sandown was a massive step up in class for Alsa Mix, but we were banking on the longer trip and more testing ground playing to our mare’s strengths, and she duly beat the boys,” he said.
“This step up in class means she will have to improve again, but if the rain returned she might well do just that as she won her point-to-point in heavy ground, so I won’t be comBallymore plaining if the forecasters have got it wrong.”
Tom Lacey would also like to see the ground soften up for Kateson, who won over the course and distance at Newbury.
“He seems in very good order at home. The ground is drying back all the time,” said the Ledbury trainer.
“We’d have liked some softer ground, but he’ll take his chance.”
Fergal O’Brien, who lifted this prize last season with Poetic Rhythm, looks to Coolanly this time.
The six-year-old bounced back from a fall at Chepstow to win the Grade Two Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham last time.
O’Brien said: “The Challow looks a very good race with seven in-form runners. Coolanly did not do anything wrong when he won at Cheltenham and deserves to take his chance.
“I don’t think slower ground will be a problem. He seems fairly versatile and I think he will handle most types of ground.”
A seven-strong field in completed by Olly Murphy’s Brewin’upastorm, Paul Nicholls’ Getaway Trump and the Ben Pauling-trained Nestor Park.
O’Brien hope: Coolanly
Would like rain: Alsa Mix