Trainer Philip Hobbs is set to give Fair Along his first start over hurdles for more than 18 months in the £20,000 Royal Gloucestershire Hussars “Help For Heroes” Handicap Hurdle (2.20pm), run on the second day of The Showcase, at Cheltenham on Saturday, October 18.
The six-year-old gelding disappointed on his latest start over the smaller obstacles in the Grade Three Vincent O'Brien County Handicap Hurdle at The Festival in 2007, just three days after he had finished five lengths second to My Way De Solzen over fences in the Grade One Irish Independent Arkle Challenge Trophy Chase.
The son of Alkalde, who was also runner-up in the Grade One JCB Triumph Hurdle at The Festival in 2005, returned to Cheltenham last season and stayed on to take third behind Master Minded and Voy Por Ustedes in the Grade One Seasons Holidays Queen Mother Champion Chase at The Festival.
He has been successful twice at Grade Two level at Prestbury Park, beating the likes of Afsoun and Kasbah Bliss in the Concord At jet.com Juvenile Novices' Hurdle at The Open in 2005, prior to a nine-length victory over Natal in the Independent Newspaper Novices' Chase at the same meeting 12 months later.
Having bypassed a possible tilt at Flat glory in the Cesarewitch, Minehead-based Hobbs now hopes that Fair Along can return to winning ways in the two mile and five furlong contest.
Hobbs explained: “We’ve entered Fair Along in the Royal Gloucestershire Hussars “Help For Heroes” Handicap Hurdle and he’s entirely likely to run in the race.
“He seems in good order. He was third in last year’s Cesarewitch at Newmarket but we thought that we would miss the race this year because we have Liberate in this time around and I think that the race took a lot out of him last season.
“He’s rated 11lb less over hurdles and we thought that it might help him. The problem is that he’s a bit in the twilight zone over fences because he’s not quite good enough for the best at level weights and he would be carrying a lot of weight in handicaps.
“So we’ve decided to give him a chance over hurdles. Hopefully, we will start him off at Cheltenham on Saturday and, if he runs a good race, we will take it from there.”
The feature race on Saturday is the £50,000 Dick Francis “Silks” Handicap Chase (3.25pm), and trainer Alan King is hoping that progressive novice Ouzbeck can get back to winning ways in the extended two and a half mile contest, which is run over the same course and distance as the Paddy Power Gold Cup at The Open.
The six-year-old Denham Red gelding unseated Robert Thornton early on in a novice chase at Market Rasen on his latest start at the end of September, but had previously racked up a hat-trick of victories on his first three appearances over fences, culminating in a 32-length demolition of Chrysander at Bangor-on-Dee in July.
King commented: “Ouzbeck has been entered in the Dick Francis “Silks” Handicap Chase and he’s all set to take his chance.
“He over-jumped at Market Rasen on his last start where he just pitched on landing and parted company with “Choc”. It’s was just one of those things - Market Rasen can be a touch trappy at times.
“I think that Cheltenham could suit him because he might just have a slight preference to go left-handed. It’s no big deal but, in an ideal world, I would prefer him to go left-handed.
“He’s rated 142, which is a tough mark on what’s he’s done so far over fences, but he won three races now so we can’t run him in many of the novice chases at the moment. I thought he was rated high enough over hurdles on 135.
“We have few options with him so we’ll run him against the big boys and see how he gets on.”
The Showcase gives members of the public the chance to get more involved in different aspects of racing. Prior to racing, racegoers can visit the parade ring and the weighing room and even win the chance to judge the Best Turned Out horse in a race, watch a race as an owner or make a trophy presentation. The Showcase Exhibition brings together information about breeding, owning, training, riding and caring for horses in their retirement, plus demonstrations covering aspects as diverse as how a horse is saddled and how a fence is built.
Meeting - The Showcase, Cheltenham Racecourse
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