Donald McCain backs Overturn to upset Simonsig's standing
His very name anticipates the role to which he is summoned, just 13 days from now, and even punters made to regret taking short odds about the hot favourite would surely find it in their own hearts to admire the mighty one housed in the chest of Overturn.
Already winner of a Chester Cup and Northumberland Plate on the Flat, and runner-up in the Champion Hurdle last year, Overturn returns to Cheltenham as the only novice chaser given a serious chance by bookmakers against Simonsig. And with the odds-on favourite for the Racing Post Arkle Chase having mustered just two starts over fences, both in modest company, Donald McCain suspects that Overturn's trademark combination of boldness and brilliance cannot fail to raise the bar.
"He's been grand, very impressive," the trainer said of Simonsig. "But he hasn't been second in a Champion Hurdle, has he? We know what Overturn will do. If Simonsig can follow him, and go past, then good luck to him. But it's not going to be easy. We go there feeling that Overturn's style of racing will make it very difficult for the likes of Simonsig. We won't have to change anything. Our horse has his way of doing it, and has done it in all disciplines."
There is something almost unnerving about Overturn's extravagant appetite for his calling, to which McCain can testify daily at his Cheshire stables. "He comes out every morning and just makes you smile," he said. "After the Champion Hurdle last year was probably the only time I've seen him absolutely shattered – but we brought him out the next day, and he wanted to go again. That's just him. I'd love him to have his really big day, jumping. He's earned it."
Overturn was McCain's second consecutive Champion Hurdle runner-up, albeit the career of Peddlers Cross has not gone so smoothly since. McCain none the less views a workmanlike defeat of inferior rivals at Musselburgh the other day as a legitimate springboard to the Ladbrokes World Hurdle.
"Everyone has an opinion about him," McCain said. "[But] he's my superstar. We've had niggly little problems, but nothing worth talking about, and he's in great nick. I would be first to say I expected him to be more impressive at Musselburgh, but after the race Jason [Maguire] was shocked by my outlook. He was very happy with him, said he travelled well and jumped great. It's a trait of his that he doesn't do a lot in front, but he's a very smart horse – the best work horse I've seen."
Few are expecting Cinders And Ashes to give McCain a third consecutive podium finish in the Champion Hurdle, after disappointing in both starts since he won the big novice race over the course last year. But McCain is predicting a return to top form on the drying surface. "He has a massive each-way chance," he insisted. "You'll see a completely different horse come Champion Hurdle day. He is very much a decent-ground horse. He's got beat a couple of times – and well beat – but I don't think you can judge him until he gets his going."
Chris McGrath's Nap
Asia Minor (8.30 Kempton) This well-bred filly is progressing well for her latest stable. Was just left too much to do off a quickening pace last time.
Morning Moment (3.50 Bangor) Lightly raced for his age and, having shaped well on his return, can now exploit a very fair mark.
One to watch
My Son Max (P J O'Gorman) Can win more all-weather sprints judged on his luckless fourth at Lingfield on Saturday, hitting traffic after travelling strongly.
Where the money's going
Dodging Bullets is 9-1 from 12-1 with the sponsors for the William Hill Supreme Novices' Hurdle on the Cheltenham Festival's first day.
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