Nicky Henderson admits he is finding it difficult to split Duc De Regniere and Punchestowns as the Seven Barrows duo prepare to lock horns in the BGC Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot.
Duc De Regniere comes into the Grade One contest with solid credentials having won the Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury last month in impressive style.
His stablemate Punchestowns has slightly more to prove as he steps up to three miles and into Graded company for the first time, and Henderson would rather not be running the pair against each other.
“As I have said, I find it hard to split the two of them,” said the trainer.
“It will be interesting with Punchestowns. The race at Cheltenham last weekend (Relkeel Hurdle) was ideal for him, and that was off.
“It is not ideal with Duc de Regniere in there and I hate running them against each other but the other option was the Steel Plate and Sections at Cheltenham (on New Year’s Day) and this race is worth five times as much.
“The owners can also come and see him run and we want to try him over three miles.
“Duc de Regniere’s objective over hurdles the other day was to get his confidence back for a return to fences but on that performance he has got a career as a long-distance hurdler.”
Blazing Bailey could finish only fourth in the Long Distance on his seasonal reappearance but his trainer Alan King is hoping for a better performance tomorrow.
“The horse is fine and I just hope they go a good gallop tomorrow,” said King.
“He wants a properly run race, which at Newbury it wasn’t. He wants to be hitting his flat spot a long way out, rather than turning in as he did at Newbury.”
Nigel Twiston-Davies is in bullish mood as Pettifour bids to regain the winning thread having finished third in the same Newbury contest.
The six-year-old was unbeaten in three hurdling starts during his novice campaign and picked up where he left off on his reappearance with a hard-fought victory in the John Smith’s Hurdle at Wetherby.
He was conceding weight to his conquerors last time and as he is now back on level weights, Twiston-Davies feels there is every reason to remain positive.
“I think they’ve all got him to beat at the weights after the Newbury run,” said the Naunton handler.
“I don’t think it was run to suit him at all that day – they went very slow early – but with Lough Derg in this they should go a much stronger pace.
“Ascot should suit him, definitely, and he has plenty in his favour.
“Of all the runners, you would think that he would have more improvement in him than most as he has only ever had seven races.”