(Fete Champetre winning at Kelso earlier in the season)
WE head to Ayr this afternoon for part one of their two-day Scottish National meeting with three runners.
LE CHEVAL NOIR (1.30) will go in the 3m handicap hurdle. We had entered him in the listed race at Perth next week but have decided to have a go at this instead. This will be the best ground he’s encountered but it was good to soft at Newcastle last time, so we think it won’t inconvenience him too much. The fact it’s a full three miles here and Ayr being a galloping track will also help.
He’s a lovely horse we think a lot of and his future is as a chaser next season, so this will be his last outing over hurdles no matter what happens. The handicapper only put him up three for winning last time out, which was fair enough because it was quite tight in the end. If he turns up in the same form as he did last time out, you’d have to hope he’s got a real chance.
He’s ready, he’s very tough and it’s very competitive because of the standing of the meeting - but we’re hopeful of a big run.
SLANELOUGH (2.05) was entered at Bangor but we were worried it would be pretty quick ground so we have decided to let him run here instead. It’s only two miles but the track will suit him. We tried to hold him up a bit the last time and it didn’t work, so it will be back to more familiar tactics today.
He’s come down seven pounds this season in seven runs, so the handicapper has given him a bit of a chance. He’s probably been his own worst enemy because he’s so consistent with a few seconds and thirds. He’s had a good season but it’s a long time since he won so we’re desperate to get one for him. Whether that’s this weekend, at a tough meeting like this one, remains to be seen.
It’s very competitive stuff, with a couple of southern runners making the trip up, so we’ll see how he gets on over the minimum trip again and back to his usual running style.
FETE CHAMPETRE (3.50) will be ridden by Brian Hughes. He’s usually Sean Quinlan’s but he suggested we put Brian up because we’d all love him to win the Jockeys Championship again. It’s very generous of him, everyone in the north would love Brian to take it again so we're keen to do our bit. Sean has a nice ride in the race anyway, so has said to give Brian any of ours he’d usually be on that we think have chances.
We’re delighted to put him up and we'd love to provide him with a winner.
This is Fete Champetre’s first handicap, he got a mark of 117 which I thought was pretty fair after Wetherby so that encouraged us to run in this instead of another novice. This will be a different ball game, a fast-run and competitive race, but it will be another learning curve for him.
He’ll still be a bit green and the one doubt is whether he’s savvy enough to win a handicap at this stage, but he’s a gorgeous horse and we’ll find out.
I also have to give a mention to James Robottom for his effort on Worcester Pearmain at Kelso last weekend. It was his first ride and we thought he was excellent. Apple is a great mare, we love her a lot and I actually thought it was her best ever run because we didn't expect her to go so close. So well done James and keep it up!