Jeriko Du Reponet returns to the scene of his impressive debut attempting to enhance his burgeoning reputation in the Coral Committed To Safer Gambling ‘Introductory’ Hurdle on Saturday.
Trained by Nicky Henderson, the point winner became the talk of the town when dazzling at Newbury on the pre-Coral Gold Cup gallops morning and lived up to expectations when taking to the track, with an easy three-and-a-quarter-length victory over course and distance.
Already favourite with most firms for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival, he now faces stiffer opposition as he continues to build up his experience ahead of bigger assignments to come.
“He’s a big horse and he’s only had one point-to-point and one hurdle race which didn’t tell us very much,” said Henderson. “But he did what he had to and was learning all the way.
“This is a better-quality field and we will see how we go here.”
Lying in wait for the four-year-old are four rivals, including Alan King’s Lingfield scorer and 94-rated Flat performer Paradias and Hughie Morrison’s Secret Squirrel, who is three from three following a taking success at Kempton on his hurdles debut.
“He’s only four and is very inexperienced. He hasn’t been through the point-to-points and hasn’t ran on the Flat, so is still really green really,” said Morrison.
“I’m not sure it’s the right thing to do and he probably should be running in a softer novice but the ground could be even worse soon and in two weeks’ time it could be rained off, snowed off or even frozen.
“It’s all about experience and the Henderson horse looks like the next Sprinter Sacre, Altior, Shishkin-type heir apparent there and a 95-rated Flat horse can make a pretty decent jumper as I know from Not So Sleepy, so he could run very well and finish third.
“But it isn’t too far from home and so far Newbury has avoided a lot of the rain, well the worst of it. I just want him to have a nice experience.”
Henderson will also hope to taste success with the King and Queen’s Steal A March in the Coral Racing Club Join For Free Handicap Hurdle.
The eight-year-old was well fancied for a Cheltenham Festival handicap last term before injury struck and now returns from 369 days off the track bidding to pick up where he left off, having scored at Wincanton when last seen.
Dan Skelton’s Get A Tonic impressed when bolting up over course and distance earlier this month and is likely to be a warm order for a repeat, while Paul Nicholls’ Irish Hill was well held on that occasion but is now tried in first-time blinkers off a mark 1lb lower than his last successful rating.
Nicholls told Betfair: “I’m putting a pair of blinkers on Irish Hill to try to sharpen him up because I’m not convinced he put everything in last time at this track.
“Hopefully he can go well off a mark of 127.”
A competitive field has also assembled for the Coral Mandarin Handicap Chase, where Surrey Quest is one of the leading contenders.
Formally trained at Seven Barrows, he made a brilliant start to life in the care of ex-Henderson assistant Toby Lawes when a fast-finishing six-and-a-half-length scorer at Huntingdon and now tries to follow up after an 8lb rise.
“He won well on his debut for Toby and will certainly appreciate the extra distance,” said Clive Hadingham, co-founder of Surrey Racing with Steve Grubb.
“He had a minor op after that race and, while he’s in great shape, he would have preferred this race to be a week later. The ground will be perfect – he wouldn’t want any more rain – but we are happy to take a chance.”
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