Aintree’s flat contours are expected to bring out the best in Pied Piper in Thursday’s Jewson Anniversary 4-Y-O Juvenile Hurdle.
A multiple winner on the Flat in the colours of the Queen, the son of New Approach was bought out of John and Thady Gosden’s yard for 225,000 guineas to pursue a jumping career with Gordon Elliott.
He made a smart beginning when beating Vauban at Punchestown and a subsequent demolition job on Cheltenham Trials Day meant he lined up as one of two leading contenders for owners Andrew and Gemma Brown in last month’s Triumph Hurdle, along with stablemate Fil Dor.
There was only a neck between the pair at the Festival, with Fil Dor second and Pied Piper third behind Vauban, and connections believe Pied Piper could be seen in an even better light on Merseyside.
Joey Logan, racing manager for the owners, said: “We think the ground is going to suit him and the track is going to suit him – I think we’ll see the best of Pied Piper on Thursday.
“He’s in good form – he came out of Cheltenham very well. Davy (Russell) is going to ride him and we’d be expecting him to run a big race.
“This was the target more than the Triumph Hurdle because of the track, but we had to run both horses in the Triumph.
“Fil Dor is a big chaser in the making and will go to Punchestown. Hopefully Pied Piper might go for one of the big staying Flat races at Royal Ascot or somewhere after Thursday.”
The biggest danger to Pied Piper appears to be Brazil, who provided trainer Padraig Roche with a first Cheltenham success in the Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle.
Roche is looking forward to testing the JP McManus-owned gelding at Grade One level for the first time.
Roche said: “He seems healthy and well and he gave us an unbelievable day in Cheltenham, in fairness. We’re looking forward to running him again.
“He came out of Cheltenham great and in good form and the ground should be lovely.”
Petit Tonnerre is a second interesting runner for McManus, having added to his two wins in France when making a successful debut for Jonjo O’Neill at Market Rasen in February.
The Venetia Williams-trained Fautinette, the only filly in the field, won each of her three starts across the Channel and is thrown in at the deep end on first start in Britain.
“She is a gorgeous little mare,” said co-owner Andy Edwards.
“She is not a novice, and fillies’ handicaps are slightly few and far between at this time of year. We thought about a fillies’ juvenile handicap at Cheltenham, on April 14, but she is working so nicely.
“She is a very good filly and deserves to take her chance in this. First time out in a Grade One is a very big ask, no question. But we are really looking forward to seeing her run.
“Her fitness levels are unknown, but the track is ideal and the ground is ideal.”
Knight Salute won his first five races over hurdles for Milton Harris but could finish only ninth in the Triumph Hurdle three weeks ago, with his trainer blaming underfoot conditions.
“That was down to the ground. Paddy (Brennan) looked after him and at home he seems right as rain,” said Harris.
“We took the hood off and he had been running with earplugs in and we have chucked those out. I think I would expect to see a different horse, the old horse back firing.
“It is a competitive race but he is 14-1 and that is a crazy price, just crazy.”
Gary Moore’s dual winner In The Air, the Dan Skelton-trained Too Friendly, Nicky Henderson’s Impulsive One and Inca Prince from Ruth Jefferson’s yard complete the field.