Cotton in 'A1' shape ahead of Newbury
John Ferguson is delighted with Cotton Mill as he prepares him for a crack at the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury on Saturday.
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The six-year-old Tiger Hill gelding hasn't been seen this season after unseating Denis O'Regan when ducking left in the Neptune behind Simonsig at last year's Cheltenham Festival and finishing third over three miles in a Grade One at Aintree.
That last appearance was back in April but Ferguson isn't concerned by his absence from the track as he explained at Doncaster on Monday.
"He's very well I'm very happy with him," Ferguson told sportinglife.com. "He's been A1 throughout the season but I haven't run him because the ground has been so heavy. I wasn't convinced he'd go on heavy ground and I didn't feel he needed heavy ground races early in the year.
"He's starting off a fresh horse, whatever he does at Newbury he'll improve for it and Newbury will tell us a lot. If the ground is decent we'll have a good idea if his next start is over two miles or two-miles-five."
The Champion Hurdle could be on the cards for Cotton Mill if he runs well this weekend, though Ferguson says all plans are on hold until he's proven himself over two miles.
Cotton Mill's last appearance came over three miles at Aintree, but it's a trip he's unlikely to run over again as Ferguson looks for options over two and possibly two-and-a-half miles.
He continued: "Cheltenham is in our thoughts, but to take the Betfair Hurdle along the way would be nice.
"The thinking behind dropping him back in trip is fairly simple. I started him off over two-and-a-half last year at Hereford and I never gave him the chance to run over two. He ran well in the Neptune and we thought he may get three miles which he patently didn't because at Liverpool he was bang with them two out and was beaten 10 lengths so he didn't get the three.
"He's a horse that won over a mile and a quarter at Newmarket on the Flat and he was as going as well as anything in the Neptune, he's got speed.
"We're going to be a lot older and wiser on Saturday night."