Cockney Sparrow strives to give Malton trainer John Quinn back-to-back victories in the StanJames.com Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle today.
The progressive filly struck at Aintree’s Grand National meeting last season and after a profitable Flat campaign, returned to the winter game to claim Listed honours at Wetherby on Charlie Hall day.
She faces a massive step up in grade here, with leading Champion Hurdle contender My Tent Or Yours one of seven rivals standing in her way, but Quinn believes she deserves her place in the line-up.
He said: “She’s in very good fettle. We know she’s got to step up a lot on what she’s done to date, but it’s worth having a go and we’re looking forward to it. She gets 7lb off the others which will help a bit.
“She’s got plenty of speed, she’d have a bit more than the other juveniles I’ve had and her Listed-race win has been franked. She has to improve, but she’s a filly and it’s a Grade One – if she’s placed that’s great.
“She’s well and her owner is going to breed off her so if she got Grade One-placed that’s important. I don’t think I’m pitching her in too deep, it’s a realistic pitch.”
Nicky Henderson expects to find out a little more about the top-level claims of My Tent Or Yours in the Fighting Fifth.
The six-year-old is expected to go off as the odds-on favourite for the event which Henderson won in 2008 with Punjabi on the way to the Champion Hurdle, though he twice saw Binocular beaten.
Henderson said: “He got to (a rating of) 160 as a novice and he’s got to get to around 175 (to be a Champion Hurdle horse), but a novice could improve a stone.
“He didn’t do much wrong as a novice hurdler and we took him away last week. Some of ours have needed a run more than you would have expected, but he worked very well and he’s pretty straight.
“The reason for the Fighting Fifth is it tees you up nicely for the Christmas Hurdle and Melodic Rendezvous et al will give us a guide. We’re taking the Darlan route, he has exactly the same profile, although he won the Betfair Hurdle and Darlan would have done (before falling).
“They are both very talented and we had the same sort of dilemma about going chasing or staying hurdling (after finishing second in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle), but we stuck to the same route.
“He came around at the right time, after we lost Darlan, but of course we wish we still had both of them. Hopefully the ground isn’t too soft.”
Exciting prospect Oscar Rock takes the next step up the ladder in the Straightline Construction “The French Furze” Novices’ Hurdle on the same card.
A dual bumper winner when with Harry Fry, the five-year-old bolted up at Wetherby on his first start since joining the Malton team of Malcolm Jefferson and first over timber.
He is as low as 16-1 in places for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham, and Jefferson said: “He’s very well.
“When you get these good horses, it’s no good them lobbing round on the bridle as they learn nothing. We think he’s good and we’ll find out how good on Saturday.”