John Quinn will be hoping for better luck at Doncaster today than he had at Musselburgh yesterday.
The Norton trainer saddles his Champion Hurdle hope Countrywide Flame in the feature event on Town Moor, just 24 hours after Kashmir Peak parted company with Dougie Costello in Scotland as he aimed to complete a hat-trick of wins over timber and confirm his place in the Triumph Hurdle, a race Countrywide Flame won at the Festival meeting last season.
Countrywide Flame faces a tough test this afternoon. He takes on Darlan, who beat him cosily in the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton, while also in the four-strong field is Rock On Ruby, last season’s Champion Hurdle winner.
Quinn, who felt that a slowly-run race had contributed to Countrywide Flame’s defeat at Kempton, had previously saddled him to run out an impressive winner of the Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle.
It is a tall order for Countrywide Flame to turn the tables on Darlan and also conquer the classy Rock On Ruby, but the North Yorkshire gelding is a top-notch horse on his day and is tentatively selected to come through the 32Red Hurdle with flying colours. Denis O’Regan has the mount.
Doncaster’s quality card also includes the 32Red.com Novices’ Chase, in which Vintage Star is napped to land his second win over fences.
Trained by Sue Smith, the Trevor Hemmings-owned gelding ran out a wide-margin winner at Catterick last time out after finishing second in his two previous outings over fences.
The extended three miles of this race will be perfect for Vintage Star.
Aaim To Prosper will be a popular choice in the £32 Bonus At 32Red.com Maiden Hurdle.
The nine-year-old is twice a winner of the Cesarewitch on the Flat. He has started hurdling late in life, but he shaped well on his jumping debut to finish second at Newbury. Now trained by Paul Nicholls, he has every chance of going one better.
Nicky Henderson introduces a useful looking newcomer to Britain in Utopie Des Bordes, who lines up in the 32Red Casino Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle.
Four times a winner in France, the five-year-old has a consistent profile and a high rating of 146.
Ali Baba is fancied to lift the 32RedBet.com Handicap Hurdle for Alan King, while Furius could be another winner for Sue Smith in the 32RedMobile.com Handicap Hurdle.
Tomorrow sees the return of Flat racing at Southwell, which has had a barren winter owing to severe flooding problems.
Ollie Pears, for one, has chances of a double with nap selection Boy The Bell (2.10), a previous course winner and successful at Wolverhampton two starts ago, and the useful Sound Amigo (3.40).
1.30 Utopie Des Bordes, 1.50 Aaim To Prosper, 2.25 Vintage Star (NAP), 3.00 Countrywide Flame, 3.30 Ali Baba, 4.05 Quapriland, 4.35 Furius.
Today’s other meeting: Wolverhampton.
1.40 Peace In Our Time, 2.10 Boy The Bell (NAP), 2.40 Stand Guard, 3.10 Lady Malet, 3.40 Sound Amigo, 4.10 Shearian, 4.40 Stanley Rigby.
Tomorrow’s other meetings: Market Rasen and Sedgefield.