By Keith Hamer
TRAINER John Queally hopes there will be enough ease in the ground for Al Eile in his bid to defy top weight of 11st 12lb in the totesport Trophy Hurdle at Newbury today.
The six-year-old, third to Essex 12 months ago, was a game winner of the Haydock Champion Hurdle Trial on heavy ground three weeks ago.
"Al Eile came out of the Haydock race extremely well," said Queally.
"Basically I’m happy with him but I wouldn’t like the ground quick. I just hope there’s a bit of ease in it. That’s the only concern I have.
"I’ll walk the track early in the morning as soon as I get over there. My man, who travelled over with the horse yesterday, has walked it and he seems quite happy with the ground.
"Barry (Geraghty) has not ridden him before but he’s straightforward, although he likes to come off the pace a bit. There wasn’t much pace in the race last year which kind of caught us out a little bit. Normally they go like the clappers.
"He’s got top weight but there are 20-odd runners and you need a bit of luck in running."
There are two other Irish raiders - the Noel Meade-trained Arch Rebel and Royal Paradise, trained by Tom Foley.
Royal Paradise has been disappointing this season but his jockey Mick Fitzgerald believes it would be folly to dismiss the six-year-old if he showed his former sparkle.
"He needs to rediscover his best form and if he does then he’s got a chance off that weight. I’d be very hopeful if he did," said Fitzgerald.
Champion trainer Martin Pipe has no fewer than five runners, three of which - Nous Voila, Acambo and Miss Academy - are owned by his chief patron David Johnson, plus Desert Air and Buena Vista.
"It’s a tough race. It’s like the lottery - the more tickets you buy the better chance you’ve got," said Johnson.
"I go there with hope rather than expectation. It’s good prize money so you’ve got to take your chance."
Paul Nicholls has a contingency plan for one of his candidates Noland, who prefers cut in the ground.
The trainer said: "I think the ground will be fine for Natal, but if it gets too quick I have the option of running Noland at Exeter on Sunday."