Aux Ptits Soins in hurdling switch for Rendlesham test
Friday 17 February 2017
Paul Nicholls is counting on a switch back to the smaller obstacles helping to revive the fortunes of Aux Ptits Soins in the Betfred Rendlesham Hurdle at Haydock on Saturday.
Although much was expected of the seven-year-old over fences this season, his chasing career has failed to take off after registering just one win from three starts in that discipline.
The Ditcheat handler hopes the John Hales-owned gelding can restore his confidence in the Grade Two at the Merseyside track, before a potential tilt at the Coral Cup which he won back in 2015 on his first start for the champion trainer.
Nicholls said: "He just doesn't jump fences like he should and that is getting in his way. He never jumped very well at Doncaster the other day.
"The handicapper has got him 142 over fences and he is a 150 hurdler. He can run in the Rendlesham with no penalties and we are going to see if that just gets him jumping again.
"He is not in the Stayers' (Hurdle), but if he ran really tidy he could have an entry in the Coral Cup or we could look at Aintree. There are lots of races for him. One run over hurdles might just sharpen him up."
Nicholls also saddles four-times Grade One winner Zarkandar, who was seventh to Unowhatimeanharry in the Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot on his latest start.
Donald McCain is hoping Desert Cry's liking for the Merseyside venue, where he has won over hurdles and fences, will stand him in good stead.
"He's been running well and he's gone to a very high mark again, so there aren't that many options," said the Cholmondeley trainer.
"The ground maybe isn't quite testing enough, but he likes Haydock Park and has run in a Champion Hurdle Trial there before and has run well.
"Everything's fine, he stays well and goes well there. For him it would be better if it was heavy ground, but there's no reason not to take a punt."
Agrapart has to give weight all round as he is burdened with an 8lb penalty for winning the Grade Two Relkeel Hurdle at Cheltenham on New Year's Day.
The Nick Williams-trained six-year-old has also held his own at the top level, when third to Yorkhill in the Tolworth at Sandown last winter, and won the highly-competitive Betfair Hurdle at Newbury last February.
Anteros is the likely outsider of the quintet, but he gave trainer Sophie Leech a big day when landing a Listed handicap hurdle at Cheltenham in November.