Nicky Henderson hopes exciting mare Luccia can enhance her Cheltenham Festival credentials at Exeter on Virgin Bet Super Sunday (February 12th) by maintaining her unbeaten record in the Virgin Bet Daily Extra Places Novices’ Hurdle.
After being forced to miss the Grade One Unibet Tolworth Novices’ Hurdle at Sandown Park last month due to mucus being found on her windpipe, the daughter of The Gurkha will now bid to make it four wins from as many starts in the £30,000 Listed prize.
The five year old, who is the general 5-2 Favourite for the Grade Two Jack de Bromhead Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle at The Festival on March 16th, made an impressive hurdles debut when striking at Newbury in November.
Henderson said: “She has done everything right so far and made a very impressive debut over hurdles at Newbury. She is in great form and has been working well.
“It was very annoying that we had to miss the Tolworth Hurdle with her as that is where I wanted to go but she had a little bit of a dirty scope and we had to miss a little bit of time with her.
“She is all good now and we need to get another run into her for more experience over hurdles before we go to Cheltenham.
“I could have found an easier race for her to run but this is a decent prize to aim Although she does act on soft, this ground will be fine for her.”
Victor Dartnall will not be the only member of his family sporting a smile should Run To Milan secure a fourth course success by registering back-to-back victories in the Virgin Bet Daily Price Boosts Veterans’ Handicap Chase.
While it is the Barnstaple-based trainer whose name will be next to him in the racecard, he credits his son Paddy for doing much of the fine tuning with the 11 year old who finished third in the final of the veterans’ series at Sandown Park last time out.
He said: “Paddy, my son, rides him at home all the time and he is a very easy and enjoyable horse to deal with. Paddy does pretty much everything with him and he will be leading him up on Sunday as well.
“He has really come back to form this season and he ran a blinder at Sandown Park. The horse that finished second that day, Ramses De Teillee, takes us on again but we are better off at the weights with him.
“Exeter is his favourite track and we just hope the ground will be soft enough for him, but it was not long ago it was really soft so hopefully it will still be tacky.”
Dartnall feels that an integral part of Run To Milan holding his form well is down to the association he has struck up with jockey Alan Johns in recent seasons.
He added: “What has been revolutionised with him is his jumping. That has really improved since Alan Johns has taken over on him.
“They give each other confidence and that is a big asset to have.”
Jeremy Scott believes Kissesforkatie has a ‘great chance’ of scooping the biggest prize of her career in the Listed Virgin Bet Best Odds Daily Mares’ Chase.
Although it will be the first time that the nine year old has tackled three miles over fences, the Brompton Regis based handler is confident she will handle the step back up in trip.
He said: “She has obviously got a bit of black type from her National Hunt Flat days, but this is another opportunity to cement that for when she goes off for breeding. I think it is a lovely race they have put on. The ground should be fine for her and we are looking forward to it.
“It is her first time running over three miles over fences but we thought that she needed it the last day she ran at Wincanton.
“When we run her first time out at Newton Abbot and finished second behind Pic D’Orhy I just felt then it all happened a bit quick over two miles five furlongs
“She has been a great fun mare and chasing certainly seems to have brought the best out in her.
“She was good over hurdles but she could be a bit low over them and we were a bit dubious about going chasing but fences seem to have sorted that out.
“I hope she has got a great chance and we will give it a good go.”