Tag Archive for: EBF Novices’ Handicap Hurdle Final

No sleeping on Peejay in Sandown final

Any rain at Sandown would be a bonus for connections as Peejaybee bids to land the hugely competitive European Breeders’ Fund Paddy Power “National Hunt” Novices’ Handicap Hurdle Final.

The Grade Three contest, run over two and a half miles, has attracted a field of 17 and is one of the highlights on a fascinating seven-race card at the Esher track on Saturday.

Trained by Richard Spencer, Peejaybee is on a hat-trick after following up a course and distance success with a facile win at Sedgefield. He has won three of his five starts over hurdles and been placed in the other two.

His Newmarket trainer knows the task facing the six-year-old, however.

“Peejaybee has taken his racing well,” said Spencer. “He seems in good form and obviously being a course and distance winner does help, but it is going to be a tough race.

“This is going to be the hardest race he has run in and the biggest field. He is still going to have to improve from what he has shown so far.

“On his last run, the main aim was to finish in the first four. It was not a race to give him a hard time and leave our Sandown opportunity at Sedgefield, and James (Bowen) looked after him.

“He has been showing us the same signs all year, so I’m happy with him, but it not an easy task.

“Fingers crossed he can run well and I hope they just get a drop of rain. If they do, that will be great. We are looking forward to seeing him run – he has been a lot of fun this season.”

Thunder Rock completed his hat-trick last time at Huntingdon, beating Dorking Boy by a length and a quarter.

His trainer, Olly Murphy, still feels there is improvement to come.

“He is in good form and looks progressive,” said Murphy. “We are hoping he still has a few pounds in hand to play with. It looks very competitive as always, but our lad is on an upward curve and he is a hardy type.

“Hopefully he will handle the conditions of the race and whatnot and we are really looking forward to running him.”

Knappers Hill should be suited by the step up in trip
Knappers Hill should be suited by the step up in trip (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Paul Nicholls saddles market leader Knappers Hill and Complete Unknown.

Knappers Hill won his first two novice hurdles with ease before finishing five and a half lengths adrift of Jonbon in a Grade Two at Ascot before Christmas.

Though beaten, he showed improvement in the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury last time.

“He’s classy, was unbeaten in bumpers, won his first two starts over hurdles and ran with plenty of promise in the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury a month ago,” Nicholls wrote on his Betfair blog.

“His jumping was really good that day and the way he kept on in the closing stages suggests he will be well suited by this step up in trip to two and a half miles.

“There is not a lot between my duo in this.”

Dan Skelton runs a trio – Our Jet, Hometrown Hero and Jet Plane – and insists they all have claims.

“Our Jet looks like he stayed very well at Wetherby the last day,” said the Alcester handler. “I’ve got a few in this race and to be honest, I’m having trouble trying to split them.

“Hometown Hero has got a chance. He won at Market Rasen the last day, and Jet Plane is in great form – he won the time before last (at Ludlow) and ran in a good qualifier at Leicester last time.

“We’re going there with a strong chance. They all have strong chances.”

Jet Plane will be ridden by 7lb claimer Tristan Durrell.

Skelton added: “You will hear plenty about him in the future, mark my words. He is a good rider and a good lad. He works hard and he’ll get plenty of chances.”

Mullenbeg swerves the Champion Bumper to run at Sandown
Mullenbeg swerves the Champion Bumper to run at Sandown (David Davies/PA)

Elsewhere, the Listed British Stallion Studs EBF Mares’ Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race sees Mullenbeg head the market for trainer Milton Harris.

The five-year-old was one of the fancied British runners in the Weatherbys Champion Bumper at next week’s Cheltenham Festival, but connections instead made the decision to switch to a race against her own sex.

She takes on 11 rivals in the two-mile contest, bidding to land a hat-trick for the yard, having arrived from Ireland in January.

Harris said: “It was a split decision with the owners, but we made the decision to go to Sandown. She is 6-4 tomorrow and she is 16-1 for the Champion Bumper. It just made sense to go there.

“If she can’t win at Sandown, we were not going to win the Cheltenham Bumper, were we?

“She is working better than ever and is much better form that she was when she won at Cheltenham.

“She just seems to be improving. I think the track will suit her and our concern was if the going went heavy at Sandown. But is doesn’t look like that will happen.

“All we don’t want is a slog and unless something desperate happens, she whips round at the start and the jockey falls off, the plan is to run tomorrow, rather than Cheltenham.”

Scene Not Herd heads into the Listed Paddy Power Novices’ Chase unbeaten in three starts this season.

The seven-year-old takes on five opponents over two and a half miles, with trainer Charlie Longsdon in confident mood.

Scene Not Herd heads to Sandown on a four-timer
Scene Not Herd heads to Sandown on a four-timer (David Davies/PA)

He said: “Hopefully he will go very nicely. His form has been good this season. He has got to improve, don’t get me wrong, but there is no reason why he can’t.

“There were reasons for him disappointing last season, but hopefully we have got that right this year and we can now kick on.

“If he gets a clear round of jumping, he’ll have a chance and he goes there a fresh horse. This has been his target the whole way through.”