An excellent start to the Cheltenham Festival has fuelled Donald McCain’s confidence ahead of Peddlers Cross’ bid for glory in the Jewson Novices’ Chase.
Cinders And Ashes landed the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, while stablemate Overturn was a storming second in the Champion Hurdle, leaving McCain in bullish mood.
Yesterday’s victory for Son Of Flicka, who helped break Nicky Henderson’s stranglehold on the day by winning the Coral Cup, gave further reason for optimism.
“If every day was like Tuesday, it would be brilliant,” said McCain.
“If they keep running like that, it’s all you can ask for.”
Peddlers Cross made an excellent start to his career over fences with two routine victories at Bangor.
But he suffered a heavy defeat at the hands of Sprinter Sacre at Kempton over Christmas, after which McCain found his pride and joy was not 100%.
The seven-year-old’s preparation has since been stop-start, and connections decided Peddlers Cross would sidestep the Arkle and instead take his chance in this longer event. With Sprinter Sacre so impressive in Tuesday’s Arkle, many will see it as a wise move by the McCain team, but the trainer insists he was not scared off by that horse.
“Peddlers is coming to hand, and we’re very happy with him. His work on Tuesday was great,” said McCain.
“I certainly wouldn’t be going to Cheltenham with him if I wasn’t happy with him. He’s in very good nick.
“I’ve said why I’ve done things and people can believe me or not. It’s nothing to do with opposition.’’
Peddlers Cross’ main market rival is the Willie Mullins-trained Sir Des Champs, winner of the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Hurdle at last year’s Festival and unbeaten in three starts over fences.
“He stays well enough and only does what he has to do,” said Mullins.
“We know he likes the hill at Cheltenham as he flew up it last year in the conditional jockeys’ race – that also confirmed he handles the track.
“We just hope he can produce the goods like he did last year.”
The only Grade One-winning chaser in the field is For Non Stop, who landed the Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase at Newbury on his latest appearance.
Trainer Nick Williams said: “His form is good, but our luck isn’t in at the moment, so anything can go wrong.
“The horse is well and the ground and everything is fine for him.”
Martin Keighley’s Champion Court has good course form and won the Dipper Novices’ Chase on New Year’s Day.
Keighley said: “He’s in top form and I’m delighted with him going into the race.
“He has rock-solid form. Trying to give 5lb to Grands Crus round Cheltenham was an impossible task, but he still ran a good race to be second.
“His Dipper win has worked out really well so he must have a live chance – I think he has as good a chance as any in the race.”
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