Alex Hammond: Darlan just Champion
Alex Hammond previews the weekend's feature action and expects Darlan to underline his Cheltenham credentials on Monday.
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Musselburgh have attracted some decent runners for their valuable card on Sunday. Overturn is set to run in the opening Scottish Arkle where he will be taken on by Nicky Henderson's recent chase debutante winner Tetlami.
The latter has benefitted from a breathing operation and wants decent ground. He will do well to beat the Doncald McCain horse in this though.
The Paul Nicholls-trained Aerial is the only unpenalised runner in the second race, a cracking novice hurdle. Witness in Court has strong claims in that for Donald McCain as he looked well worth the step up in grade having cantered home at Sedgefield last time out.
Lucinda Russell has snapped up the services of Barry Geraghty for Tap Night in the Future Champions Novices' Chase and he can make it two from two over fences. He had the option of taking on Captain Conan at Sandown on Saturday but he stays in Scotland to continue his education.
The Scottish Triumph Hurdle Trial looks very competitive. John Quinn's Kashmir Peak will run well as he continues on the road to Cheltenham. Good luck to Wayne Manor in that one, he runs for a syndicate that I'm involved in and it will be good to see him on the track.
Venetia Williams has her team in great form at the moment and her Ciceron is the likely favourite for the Scottish Champion Chase. She also has a chance in the Scottish County Hurdle with Brick Red who has top weight in this two mile handicap.
Hurricane Fly was impressive in the Irish Champion Hurdle last weekend and is now 5/2 favourite with Sky Bet for the Champion Hurdle next month. However, I'm still keen on Darlan (currently 7/2).
He could run on Monday at Doncaster in a Listed Hurdle against the likes of Fighting Fifth Hurdle winner Countrywide Flame and reigning Champion Hurdler Rock on Ruby.
There is the promise of better ground at Doncaster and they have been rewarded with some decent fields. That will suit Rock on Ruby, who was third in heavy ground in the International Hurdle to Zarkandar last time out. It doesn't matter who lines up though, I'm sticking with Darlan and I fancy him strongly for the Champion Hurdle itself.