CHAMPION conditional Gavin Sheehan gets his chance to test his riding against champion AP McCoy in a fascinating renewal of the bet365 Long Walk Hurdle at Newbury today.
The in-form Sheehan rides the Warren Greatrex-trained Cole Harden, who led from start to finish to win the West Yorkshire Hurdle at Wetherby earlier this month, while McCoy is aboard the unbeaten More Of That – Jonjo O’Neill’s Ladbrokes World Hurdle winner.
This three-mile race – a contest dominated by the now retired Big Buck’s in recent times – is even more intriguing because the Greatrex yard is in good form, while O’Neill’s horses are struggling to maintain their early-season promise.
Sheehan reported Cole Harden to be in good form this week, saying: “I think he’s improved since Wetherby, his work certainly has – he’s in great form.
“He won’t mind the ground or the track or the trip. I’m aware he has to step up, but he’s an improving horse.”
As for injury-hit McCoy, who returned to the saddle earlier this week in order to get race sharp for the ride on More Of That, he sounded confident.
“He was obviously a very smart horse last season,” said McCoy who chose, erroneously, to ride At Fishers Cross instead of More Of That at the Cheltenham Festival.
“He’s very well. I rode him at Chepstow in a racecourse gallop and just gave him a canter round. He’s also been to Newbury a couple of weeks ago.”
Kim Bailey played down the Cheltenham prospects of Un Ace after the smart novice chaser won yesterday’s Eden Farm Novices’ Chase at Doncaster under David Bass.
The trainer believes the six-year-old, who jumped with aplomb in the home straight, will be better over a longer trip and is likely to swerve the two-mile Arkle Trophy at the Cheltenham Festival next March.