Highland Lodge in top trim for Leamington

EMMA Lavelle is confident Highland Lodge can maintain his unbeaten record in the Neptune Investment Management Leamington Novices’ Hurdle at Warwick today.

The Andover handler saddled Labelthou (2007) and Court In Motion (2011) to win the Grade Two prize in recent years and has another major contender in this Exeter and Haydock winner.

Lavelle had been debating whether to saddle Highland Lodge or the equally exciting Gullinbursti earlier this week, but a late setback for the latter made for an easy decision.

“Gullinbursti pulled a shoe off and stood on a nail, so he’ll wait and go to Doncaster at the end of the month instead,” said Lavelle.

“The way it panned out is probably all right as they are two nice horses and I didn’t want to run them against each other.

“I think with the frost, the ground at Warwick will end up being dead, and that should be fine for Highland Lodge.

“He’s in great order and he’s fresh and well, so I’m looking forward to running him. We’ve done well in the race of late, so hopefully we can keep it up.”

The Nigel Twiston-Davies-trained Same Difference won on his hurdling debut at Lingfield before running fourth in a hot race at Newbury in December.

The Naunton handler admits he has plenty on his plate in this company.

“It’s probably going to be tough for him, but he’s won a race and you’ve got to go somewhere,” said the trainer.

“He ran well at Newbury last time and I’m looking forward to running him. It’s decent prize-money, so hopefully he can pick some up.”

Having shown a good level of form on the Flat for William Jarvis, Cotton Mill has barely come off the bridle on his first two starts over hurdles for John Ferguson.

Sheikh Mohammed’s bloodstock advisor is enjoying an excellent season training in this sphere and is looking forward to testing the five-year-old at Graded level.

“It’s a big step from winning at Hereford and Fakenham to a Grade Two, so we’ll see how he gets on,” said Ferguson.

“He’s very well and deserves to take his chance in the race. Having won two novices, you’ve got to come out and show your face now. We’ll find out how good he is.”

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