Trainer Nicky Henderson and owner J P McManus have an incredibly strong contingent moving forwards to the Cheltenham Festival which should be boosted further still by the return of Bloody Mary on Saturday night.
With only two runs in the UK the former French performer Bloody Mary remains a mare with huge unfulfilled potential having won at Taunton on her stable debut a year ago before running a very creditable place when stepped up immediately in class at the Cheltenham Festival. The mare suffered a chip in her knee after finishing third behind Limini in the Grade 2 Mares Novices’ Hurdle and hasn’t been seen since. She was late coming back into training this season and Saturday would be her first run back before heading to the Festival once again. The six-year-old has several options at Cheltenham with entries in the Coral Cup, the Randox Health County Handicap Hurdle and the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle.
The Nicky Henderson-trained mare will have her first run back in the Greatwood Handicap Hurdle at Newbury on Saturday and she could well take some stopping back in handicap company. In opposition of interest among the early entries are London Prize, High Secret and Chesterfield.
The Ian Williams-trained London Prize was a progressive handicapper on the Flat last season reaching a mark of 84 and transferred that ability in good style to jumping winning one of four starts over hurdles. The six-year-old’s first run in handicap company resulted in a fall four out in Listed company at Musselburgh but he was travelling strongly at the time and has since run well on the Flat when runner up in an all-weather handicap. He too is open to further improvement over hurdles as is the Paul Nicholls-trained High Secret. A former 95-rated Flat performer for Sir Mark Prescott, High Secret has just had two starts over hurdles with a win at Taunton in January before a decent third behind a couple of decent types in the Supreme Scottish Trial Novices’ Hurdle at Musselburgh.
The former Godolphin performer Chesterfield was progressive two seasons back when switching to hurdles for John Ferguson, winning three from five. With Ferguson moving back to a role with Godolphin, Chesterfield moved to Seamus Mullins and has just had two runs since spending a year off the track. The seven-year-old made a really pleasing return when finishing eighth in the competitive Grade 3 Wessex Youth Trust Handicap Hurdle before being the subject of a gamble when disappointing in the Lanzarote at Kempton. Chesterfield raced far too keenly early on there and will be of definite each-way interest behind Bloody Mary if he takes his chance on Saturday.
Catch the Greatwood Handicap Hurdle live on Sky Racing on Saturday night.