Peddlers Cross tests Hurdle hopes

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The Independent Online

The horse most worthy of note in the history of Kelso so far may well be the one carrying Bonnie Prince Charlie as he rode through in 1745, en route to England during the ill-fated Jacobite rising. His steed cast a shoe, which can still be seen embedded in the cobbles in Roxburgh Street, and less than six months later the rebellion was crushed and Charles Edward Stuart in exile.

This afternoon, Peddlers Cross should have more luck with the campaign to the crown in his sights; he is one of the young pretenders to the Champion Hurdle title. The six-year-old, trained by Donald McCain, will face eight rivals in the Morebattle Hurdle, his much-delayed final outing before next month's Cheltenham showdown.

The gelding, seven for seven, has not been seen in public since he accounted for reigning king and current big-race favourite Binocular at Newbury in November. It has been his only run in senior company, his progress having been thwarted firstly by the abandonment of his original target at Haydock and then a bout of coughing.

Peddlers Cross went well yesterday morning in a schooling session and rider Jason Maguire is just delighted for the opportunity for today's skirmish. "He seems 100 per cent at home," he said, "but he's only had that one run this season and we need to get him out again. And hopefully he can maintain his unbeaten record."

The two most likely to put up resistance are Bygones of Brid and last year's surprise Aintree Grade One winner Orsippus. And it should not be forgotten that, 12 months ago, another undefeated Champion Hurdle prospect, Zaynar, met his Culloden at odds of 1-14 in the same contest.

Plans for Cheltenham, positive and negative, continue to emerge. Colin Tizzard announced yesterday his stable star Cue Card will stay among his peers at the Festival and contest the Supreme Novices Hurdle, rather than take on the big guns in the Champion Hurdle.

Serial runner-up Forpadydeplasterer, who won the Arkle Trophy two years ago but finished second in his next seven outings, will miss this year's Festival. He had been as short at 14-1 for the Ryanair Chase, but had not fully recovered from the illness that caused the first poor run of his career, in the King George VI Chase last month.

His Irish compatriot Fiveforthree, though, will return to the scene of his greatest triumph. The Willie Mullins-trained grey, a Grade One novice Festival winner three years ago, coasted home at Punchestown yesterday on his first outing for 657 days and will challenge Big Buck in the World Hurdle.

Turf account

* Chris Mcgrath's Nap

Willie Hall (2.10 Kelso) Had his stamina stretched in three hurdles run over three miles and should appreciate the drop back in distance for his handicap debut.

* Next best

Invictus (2.00 Ffos Las) Can be rated a winner without a penalty after jinking and unseating his rider between the last two hurdles when poised to win last time.

* One to watch

York Glory (K Ryan) was significantly supported on his debut at Lingfield yesterday, and managed to finish third despite missing the break. Compensation awaits.

* Where the money's going

Ladbrokes' 7-2 against an Irish-trained Grand National winner is now 11-4.