Elite Hurdle preview: Nicky Henderson pair cross swords in classy renewal

Fri 9 Nov 2018

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Nicky Henderson has a strong hand in the Unibet Elite Hurdle, with classy novice We Have A Dream and Verdana Blue lining up in the Grade Two event at Wincanton on Saturday.

Both have sound chances, although We Have A Dream has been absent since winning the Grade One Juvenile Hurdle at Aintree in April while Verdana Blue is fresh from a recent Listed success at Kempton.

Henderson is praying there is not a lot of rain for Verdana Blue.

“She wants the ground like concrete, and I must be the only person in Britain that doesn’t want too much rain!” he said.

“The reason we didn’t go up to Wetherby last week is that we have already won our Listed race this season, so we didn’t see much point in doing that. We thought we would be brave and pray it doesn’t rain too much, and go for the Grade Two.

“This has been the plan since she won at Kempton. She has been in great form since.”

Jockey Daryl Jacob is excited at We Have A Dream making his return.

“It’s brilliant to get We Have A Dream back out,” he told www.sportinglife.com.

“Nicky Henderson had him ready to run a few weeks ago, but we’ve just been waiting for the ground to turn and we need to get him out now.

“He’s ready. This is a new chapter for him, and we know how tough it can be for four-year-olds turning five.

“He does have questions to answer, stepping up against the big boys, but I hope he can deal with it. He’s an exciting horse.”

If The Cap Fits won all three of his novice hurdles in the first half of last season but has not seen action since Boxing Day.

The six-year-old is one of two runners from the Harry Fry stable, along with seasoned campaigner Air Horse One.

"I walked the course and decided everything was fine for him," Fry said of If The Cap Fits in his Betway blog. "He’s been jumping out of his skin at home and is crying out for a run.

"He’s got a bit to find on ratings with the likes of Verdana Blue and We Have A Dream, so it’s a competitive race and we’re just looking forward to getting him started.

"We’re going there hoping that the dream can still be alive afterwards, so there’s a real balance of the excitement of having him fit and ready to go and also an element of nervousness.

"There’s a lot of belief in him and we certainly wouldn’t be running him in the race if we didn’t think he could be very competitive.

Harry Fry runs If The Cap Fits and Air Horse One at Wincanton
Harry Fry runs If The Cap Fits and Air Horse One at Wincanton

Of Air Horse One, he added: "We thought we’d let him take his chance in a conditions race rather than lug top weight around in a handicap.

"This is very much the starting point for him and whatever he does tomorrow he’ll build on with other targets in mind."

Alan King is hoping Redicean will reap the benefit of having had a comeback run over hurdles two weeks ago.

“He ran well at Cheltenham, and he looks in good order, so I hope he will come on for it,” said King.

“He will need to come on for it, but I hope he will. It was pleasing, and he seems to have taken that race well.

“Wincanton should suit him, because it is a sharp track.”

Evan Williams is hoping John Constable can show some of his old sparkle, after a spell chasing appears to have dampened his enthusiasm.

The seven-year-old showed smart form in 2017, winning Haydock’s Swinton Hurdle and the Summer Handicap Hurdle at Market Rasen as well as taking on the likes of Buveur D’Air later on.

However, he was soundly beaten in both his races over fences during the summer and then again over hurdles at Market Rasen in September.

“The reality is I don’t think that spell chasing has helped him at all,” said Williams. “It’s done anything but that.

“It’s a race that on his best form you’d like to think he’d be competitive in, but he’s been a long way off that the last few runs.

“He needs to recapture some of that enthusiasm, because he doesn’t look the same horse he did within the last 12 months.

“He’s grand at home and he’s fresh, but I need to see a bit of sparkle on the track.”

With John Constable’s regular partner Adam Wedge suspended, Williams snapped up champion jockey Richard Johnson for the ride.

“Adam (Wedge) is banned, Richard Johnson was available, so you can’t leave him in the changing rooms – he’s a remarkable jockey,” said the Llancarfan trainer.

Robert Walford’s Smaoineamh Alainn completes the seven-strong field.

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