It could be a memorable Boxing Day for Paul Robson when he saddles Cannock Park in the William Hill Formby Novices’ Hurdle at Aintree.
The fledgling handler, once a member of the riding fraternity before injury forced him to quit the weighing room, has an interesting back-story and splits his time training a small string with duties in his undertaking business in the Scottish Borders.
Robson classes training great Henrietta Knight among his close circle of friends and in Cannock Park may have found just the horse to join his great mentor on the big stage.
After some encouraging runs in bumpers, the five-year-old landed a telling blow at Cheltenham on his hurdling bow and his trainer feels he is more than worthy of his place in this Grade One contest.
Robson said: “I think he deserves his shot and at the end of the day we’re taking a step up, but so is Nicky Henderson’s horse (Jango Baie), he has only run once over hurdles. We’re in the same boat as him and the only difference is we have some bumper experience behind us.
“I think he beat some nice horses at Cheltenham and I would like to see it softer but even if it is good ground, I don’t think it would bother him. We haven’t run him on anything other than soft or heavy ground, so if it is good, it will be interesting to see how he acts on it.
“Liverpool itself will definitely suit him and looking at the form of the race, it could be lively – as there are plenty of front-runners in there.
“It looks a proper Supreme trial and I’ve looked at the race two or three ways from the aspect of which would I like to be riding and, at this moment, I would still be quite happy to be on my own. He’s got a high cruising speed and he stays well.
“There is plenty of depth to the race. We’re all excited and we don’t for any second feel we shouldn’t be in it, anyway. We’re there to give it a go and he will be going there as well as we have ever had him, so there are no excuses.”
Henderson has voiced his displeasure that this newly created race has replaced the Tolworth Hurdle but he could be the first to get his name on the roll of honour with the aforementioned Jango Baie.
The four-year-old just held on to register a nose victory over Tellherthename after the duo had a ding-dong battle up the Ascot straight and both are fancied to be thereabouts in this high-class event.
Henderson told Unibet: “The form of his Ascot win has worked out nicely, and while he takes on Ben Pauling’s horse again, I’d like to think our lad has come on for that first run.
“He handles the ground and could be quite an exciting prospect. Put it this way, we’ll know where he is in the pecking order after this.”
Since finishing second in that Ascot contest, Ben Pauling’s Tellherthename has bolted up at Huntingdon, with subsequent winners galore among the beaten horses.
“He’s a lovely horse with a lot of natural speed,” said Pauling.
“The Huntingdon race looked just a run-of-the-mill race in my eyes, and I expected him to win and he did win very nicely, but actually the form has worked out very well.
“The second (Lucky Place) came out and won by 13 lengths at Doncaster, the fifth (Soigneux Bell) has won by 11 lengths at Fontwell and the seventh (West Warhorse) has won by 16 lengths at Fakenham.
“He improved a lot from his first run, when he met Jango Baie, and he does seem to be in particularly good form with himself.
“I think he’s a very exciting horse for the future, we couldn’t be any happier with him at home and I’m looking forward to seeing how he gets on.
“It’s nice to see a proper Grade One contested by some nice, young horses.”
It was a novice hurdler that provided Fergal O’Brien with his first Grade One victory and now Kamsinas bids to another top-level strike, hot on the heels of the yard’s thrilling Long Walk Hurdle triumph with Crambo at Ascot on Saturday.
Whereas Poetic Rhythm’s 2017 Challow Hurdle success was built on pure stamina, O’Brien’s latest model possesses plenty of speed and showed lots of class when tasting Grade Two glory at Haydock last month, where he accounted for the reopposing Making Headway.
“We’ve loved him from day one,” said O’Brien. “He won his bumper for us and has done very little wrong since. He’s training very well and we’re really, really happy with him.
“He won his novice hurdle at Worcester and he won a Grade Two at Haydock and he deserves to take his chance.
“He’s a lovely stamp of a horse and we’re really looking forward to him. Fingers crossed he can run well.”
Gordon Elliott’s Farren Glory tasted Royal Bond success earlier this month and sets a high standard making the trip over from Ireland, while there is an international feel to the event with the addition of French raider July Flower, who will be ridden by Felix de Giles for handler Mickael Seror.
Nicky Richards’ Florida Dreams got off the mark over hurdles at Ayr recently and will seek his second big victory at the Merseyside track, having claimed the Grade Two bumper there in the spring.
Chepstow scorer Jackpot D’Athou represents Paul Nicholls, while Alan King’s Favour And Fortune has already struck at Hereford and Wetherby over timber.
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