North Yorkshire’s Trustan Times, winner of both his races this season, steps up to Grade 1 company for the first time at Ascot today and can take advantage of the absence of Big Buck’s from a race he has called his own in recent years.
Three times in succession, Big Buck’s, arguably the best staying hurdler ever seen, has won the Long Walk Hurdle. But an injury, identified this week, will cause the Paul Nicholls-trained super star not only to miss today’s Grade 1 showpiece, but also the remainder of the season.
Step forward Trustan Times, trained by Tim Easterby at Great Habton and a horse very much on the up in the staying division, which now has a wide open look to it.
Successful at Wetherby on his reappearance, the gelding, a winner over fences last season, has since scored in valuable Grade 3 company at Haydock under top weight of 11st 12lb.
He has now risen to a mark of 150 and has earned himself a rightful passage into the big league.
With Dougie Costello again in the saddle, Trustan Times can provide a reminder of his talents.
The £150,000 Ladbroke Hurdle is the most valuable event of the day, and looks a wide open affair, with 21 runners – a maximum field – facing the starter.
Nicky Henderson, who has won two of the last three runnings of this race, is saddling four runners in today’s contest and looks to have a massive chance, not least with Cash And Go, who finished an excellent second at Cheltenham on his reappearance.
Henderson is also particularly well-represented by Lyvius, a Newbury winner last time, while Alan King, triumphant in this race last year with Raya Star, has high hopes that Balder Success can produce a repeat.
Trainer David Bridgwater has very high hopes of Wyck Hill winning the Silver Cup Handicap Chase.
The massive gelding created a good impression when returning from a lengthy break to win at Wetherby last month, after which Bridgwater predicted that he was a horse with a very bright future.
Paul Nicholls looks to have an up-and-coming gelding in Ulck Du Lin, who won in some style at Newbury three weeks ago.
The BGC Partners Handicap Chase looks a good opportunity for Ruby Walsh’s mount to double his score as he makes his ascent up the chasing ladder.
This afternoon’s Haydock meeting will go ahead only if the course receives the green light after an early morning inspection.
The going will be very testing if the meeting does take place, but such conditions will not hamper Douglas Julian, trained at Bingley by Sue and Harvey Smith, in the featured £32,500 Tommy Whittle Handicap Chase, sponsored by Blue Square.
A winner at Kelso recently, he has gone up only 4lb for that victory and looks to be still on a competitive mark, especially as Jonathan England takes off a handy 7lb allowance.
Smith and England also have good prospects in the Bet At bluesq.com Handicap Hurdle with Mwaleshi, winner of his last three races, two for Kevin Ryan and the latest wide-margin one at Wetherby for the Smith stable.
He looks sure to go well again, despite continuing to climb up the ratings, but preference is for Hollow Tree, trained by Donald McCain.
Although only a four-year-old and with top-weight to carry, Hollow Tree is a classy horse, as he proved last season when beating subsequent Triumph Hurdle winner Countrywide Flame in a Grade 1 race at Chepstow. He also relishes testing ground.
Also worth watching out for at Haydock are Mick Easterby’s Pertemps Networks (12.10), back over hurdles after a spell of Flat racing, and the Tom Tate-trained Kudu Country (2.50).
12.55 Cheat The Cheater, 1.30 Cedre Bleu, 2.00 Trustan Times (NAP), 2.35 Wyck Hill, 3.10 Cash And Go, 3.40 Ulck Du Lin.
12.10 Pertemps Networks, 12.40 Realt Mor, 1.10 Alder Mairi, 1.45 Hollow Tree, 2.15 Douglas Julian, 2.50 Kudu Country, 3.25 Ely Brown.
Today’s other meetings: Wolverhampton and Lingfield.
The meeting at Newcastle was abandoned.