Harvey heads for Towton

Hurricane Harvey features among 14 possibles for the William Hill Towton Novices’ Chase at Wetherby.

The Fergal O’Brien-trained seven-year-old has won two of his three chasing starts to date, kicking off with victory over the well-regarded Emitom at Uttoxeter back in October.

He then found Ga Law too good in the “Rising Stars” Novices’ Chase at Wincanton, beaten 22 lengths when conceding 8lb, but bounced back to victorious form when lifting the Grade December Novices’ Chase at Doncaster before Christmas.

O’Brien has entered Hurricane Harvey for the Virgin Bet Heroes Handicap Hurdle at Sandown as well, also on Saturday, but Wetherby remains the aim.

He said: “Wetherby is definitely his first preference. We’ve entered him in the hurdle at Sandown, just in case – but that might not be going ahead, it seems, and Wetherby would be the preferred option.

“We were delighted with him last time and we have been delighted with him all year, from his first win at Uttoxeter.

“It was good to get a nice win on the board with him the last day, and he’s a great horse for his owners.”

While Hurricane Harvey holds an entry for the National Hunt Challenge Cup Amateur Jockeys’ Novices’ Chase at next month’s Cheltenham Festival, his trainer is far from certain he will line up there.

O’Brien added: “He’s in the old four-miler at Cheltenham because, when the entries were made, it wasn’t clear if the Irish horses would be coming across or what the situation is going to be with amateur riders. It was more a precautionary entry really.

“We’ll discuss it all after Wetherby hopefully, but we may just look to Aintree or Punchestown with him – those flatter tracks might just suit him a bit better.”

O’Brien also has Good And Hardy entered in Wetherby’s Grade Two feature.

Nick Mitchell’s Milanford finished a length and a quarter behind Hurricane Harvey at Doncaster, and he is another in the mix –  along with the Nicky Henderson-trained Dame De Compagnie, who hacked up on her chasing bow at Ayr last month.

Colin Tizzard has entered his Kauto Star Novices’ Chase runner-up The Big Breakaway – with others of note including Sevarano, Full Back, Kiltealy Briggs and Port Of Mars.

O’Brien celebrates new milestone as Hurricane delivers in December prize

Fergal O’Brien reached a personal best of 64 winners in a season when Hurricane Harvey took the Grade Two bet365 December Novices’ Chase at Doncaster.

The Cheltenham-based handler was at the South Yorkshire venue to enjoy the moment rather than attend his local track.

“To get to 64 winners at this time of year is fantastic,” he said.

Hurricane Harvey (5-2) got the better of long-time leader Milanford to land the spoils by a length and a quarter in the hands of Paddy Brennan.

House Island was third with the favourite Ofalltheginjoints tailed off to be a disappointing last of four after never travelling or jumping well.

O’Brien said: “We are starting to grow up a bit because for the last few years we’d have probably ended up at Cheltenham trying to take on better horses there, but this was the right race to go for with him and it’s paid dividends.

“Connor (Brace) gave him a great ride first time and Paddy gave him a lovely ride the second. We got beat by a very good four-year-old (Ga Law) at Wincanton, so we’re delighted.

“He’s won his Grade Two and it’s great for connections. They have been great supporters of mine.

“I’d be lying if I said he was a natural. He takes a bit of work. I’m grateful to Martin Keighley who has a line of five fences. He’s let us go there and we do plenty of jumping with him at home.

“He’s a very honest horse and gets on with the job.”

O’Brien will give Hurricane Harvey’s next race some thought.

“He’ll go on any ground. We did think possibly about Kempton for the Kauto Star, but that just might come a bit soon, so we might put back on the backburner,” he added.

“We’ll enjoy today. There aren’t any people here, but it’s great to come here and we’re grateful.”

Brennan said: “It was his first time over three miles. It’s lovely to come here. He was in at Cheltenham, but three miles on a flat track is right for him and he is only going to improve.

“He’s done us proud. He’s won a Grade Two. We can’t ask for any more.”