Hedgehunter primed for National service

Grand National cards will start to be laid properly on the table this weekend, with recognised Aintree trials in Britain and Ireland. One of the key players is Hedgehunter, entered in both the Red Square Vodka Gold Cup at Haydock and the Bobbyjo Chase at Fairyhouse, but yesterday the nine-year-old's trainer Willie Mullins was keeping his hand face down.

Hedgehunter has been out over hurdles five times this season, with his best placing a runner-up spot at Thurles in December, but has not run over the bigger obstacles since last year's National, when he led the field such a bold dance before his heartbreaking fall at the last when looking sure to be placed.

This year at Aintree he is set to carry the same 10st 12lb as he did last time and Mullins will decide on Saturday's target after the gelding has worked tomorrow. "He's in very good form, in great order," he said, "and I hope the serious business is about to start."

In last year's National, Hedgehunter started fifth favourite and is again among the market leaders, currently around 20-1 in the early lists. "He's jumped fences at home and that has all gone to plan, and it will be good to see him back over them on a racecourse," added Mullins. "But I won't be making any decision about where until at least Thursday. I haven't even had a proper look at the entries yet."

The Haydock race is over an extended three and a half miles, that in Fairyhouse three miles and a furlong. If Hedgehunter makes the longer journey from Co Carlow to run in the longer (and more valuable, with a £120,000 purse) contest, one he is sure to meet is Truckers Tavern, rather a specialist at the tricky drop-fenced track, where the going is forecast to be no better than soft.

The 2003 Gold Cup runner-up has not been out of the first four in five visits, which include a win in the Peter Marsh Chase two years ago and a fourth place in the latest renewal of that three-mile contest last month. "He came out of that race very well," said the 10-year-old's trainer Ferdy Murphy yesterday, "and the ground and the trip on Saturday are made for him." Like Chives and Royal Emperor, the two Sue Smith stablemates above him in the handicap on Saturday, Truckers Tavern also holds the Gold Cup entry. "We'll get this one out of the way before we decide where to go next," added Murphy.

"He takes a lot of work to get fit, twice as much as any other horse, and I could run him every week because racing takes so little out of him. I wouldn't be worried about the weights going up at Haydock as he's a big, gross horse and can carry it."

Chives was last of seven behind Lord Transcend in the Peter Marsh, but bled that day. Previously, though, he had finished second and first in Grade 2s at the track on his first runs since his transfer from Henrietta Knight, and then third in the Welsh National. Like Hedgehunter, he carries Trevor Hemmings' colours, and is an intended runner on Saturday.

The 18 left in the Haydock race number three - Stormez, Maximize and Control Man - from the Martin Pipe stable which won last year with Jurancon, and the likely favourite Baron Windrush, representing Nigel Twiston-Davies. Ten of them hold the National entry; the six Aintree hopes in at Fairyhouse include Hedgehunter's stablemate Alexander Banquet and Rince Ri, not seen in public since April.

The only Bobbyjo candidate from Britain is Murphy's Cardinal, fifth to Rule Supreme in the Hennessy Cognac Gold Cup in Leopardstown earlier this month. "We pitched him in high that day," said trainer Noel Chance, "and he got tired in the end, but I was pleased with his jumping. I'd say he'd be ridden with a fair bit more restraint on Saturday."

Gold Cup hopes had been held for Murphy's Cardinal, but the nine-year-old, who has raced only four times over fences, is likely to be dropped in class and distance at the Festival. He is one of the entries made yesterday for the first running of the most significant and valuable of the new additions to the Cheltenham Festival programme, a two-mile, five-furlong Grade 2 chase. The Daily Telegraph Trophy has attracted 39 entries, headed by the King George VI Chase winner Kicking King.

Daily Telegraph Trophy (17 March; Coral betting): 7-4 Kicking King; 3-1 Our Vic; 7-1 Farmer Jack, Rathgar Beau; 9-1 Therealbandit, Thisthatandtother; 12-1 Le Roi Miguel, Tuitchev; 14-1 Calling Brave; 16-1 Central House, Edredon Bleu, Hi Cloy, Murphy's Cardinal, Seebald; 20-1 Ashley Brook, Buckby Lane, Impek, Le Coudray, Monkerhostin; 25-1 Hand Inn Hand, Native Upmanship, Risk Accessor, Valley Henry; 33-1 others.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (B2B) - Romford - £40,000 + car

£35000 - £40000 per annum + car and benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager...

Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000 ...

Ashdown Group: Data Scientist - London - £50,000 + bonus

£35000 - £50000 per annum + generous bonus: Ashdown Group: Business Analytics ...

Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Development) - Kingston

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Dev...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: ‘We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon’, says Ed Balls

'We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon'

In an exclusive interview, Ed Balls says he won't negotiate his first Budget with SNP MPs - even if Labour need their votes to secure its passage
VE Day 70th anniversary: How ordinary Britons celebrated the end of war in Europe

How ordinary Britons celebrated VE Day

Our perception of VE Day usually involves crowds of giddy Britons casting off the shackles of war with gay abandon. The truth was more nuanced
They came in with William Caxton's printing press, but typefaces still matter in the digital age

Typefaces still matter in the digital age

A new typeface once took years to create, now thousands are available at the click of a drop-down menu. So why do most of us still rely on the old classics, asks Meg Carter?
Discovery of 'missing link' between the two main life-forms on Earth could explain evolution of animals, say scientists

'Missing link' between Earth's two life-forms found

New microbial species tells us something about our dark past, say scientists
The Pan Am Experience is a 'flight' back to the 1970s that never takes off - at least, not literally

Pan Am Experience: A 'flight' back to the 70s

Tim Walker checks in and checks out a four-hour journey with a difference
Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics - it's everywhere in the animal world

Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics

Voting, mutual back-scratching, coups and charismatic leaders - it's everywhere in the animal world
Crisp sales are in decline - but this tasty trivia might tempt back the turncoats

Crisp sales are in decline

As a nation we're filling up on popcorn and pitta chips and forsaking their potato-based predecessors
Ronald McDonald the muse? Why Banksy, Ron English and Keith Coventry are lovin' Maccy D's

Ronald McDonald the muse

A new wave of artists is taking inspiration from the fast food chain
13 best picnic blankets

13 best picnic blankets

Dine al fresco without the grass stains and damp bottoms with something from our pick of picnic rugs
Barcelona 3 Bayern Munich 0 player ratings: Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?

Barcelona vs Bayern Munich player ratings

Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?
Martin Guptill: Explosive New Zealand batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Explosive batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Martin Guptill has smashed early runs for Derbyshire and tells Richard Edwards to expect more from the 'freakish' Brendon McCullum and his buoyant team during their tour of England
General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'