Saint primed for Newbury prize
Paul Nicholls believes that Irish Saint can give a good account of himself ahead of the Betfair Super Saturday raceday at Newbury.
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An impressive winner on his most recent start at Ascot, the five-year-old bounced back from two disappointing efforts earlier in the season with a wide-margin victory in the Grade 2 Keltbray Holloway's Hurdle, but that improved showing came as little surprise to his trainer.
The seven-time champion said at his Dicheat stables: "Irish Saint was very slow to hand this year and was found to have injured his hind joint. But he travelled well on his first start [at Newbury] before he fell at the last.
"He got stuck in the middle at Ascot next like a lot of them but he still wasn't ready.
"But he relished the testing ground and hosed in [at Ascot]. The handicapper has raised him 12lb but he only has a 5lb penalty, so he's nicely in and you can see why he's favourite. He must have a leading chance", Nicholls added.
Irish Saint heads the betting with the sponsors Betfair at 6/1 with his stablemate, the unbeaten Irving, next at 7/1 after the five-day declaration stage in which there remain 29 possible runners.
Irving has won all three starts since being transferred from France, but his trainer issued words of caution for ante-post punters. "He's been schooling well and working nicely but I'm concerned about the ground, so we will have to see how it unfolds.
"We think he is well-handicapped but I'm loathe to run him if it's very testing. He likes decent ground and I want to look after him."
Newbury's clerk of the course Richard Osgood described the ground as "soft, heavy in places" and, although showers are expected throughout the week, fresh ground has been set aside on the course.
Far West, in the same ownership as Irving, has also been left in the prestigious Grade 3 contest worth £152,500 - but Nicholls will not run both.