Doncaster host their first meeting of the 2012/13 National Hunt season this afternoon and John Ferguson sends a strong team up from his Newmarket base.
Known for a number of years in his role as Sheikh Mohammed’s bloodstock advisor, Ferguson enjoyed training success in the point-to-point arena and it didn’t take him long to make waves under Rules.
His current team includes Champion Bumper runner-up New Year’s Eve, as well as another exciting hurdling prospect in the shape of Cotton Mill, and while Rick doesn’t possess the untapped potential of that pair, he should still be good enough to go close in the Kelly’s Scooping Ice Cream Novices’ Chase on Town Moor.
Once a staying hurdler of some repute in Ireland – he has a defeat of Blackstairmountain to his credit and chased home Mikael D’Haguenet in a Grade Three earlier this year – he was sold for £48,000 in May and Ferguson wasted no time in switching his attentions to the larger obstacles.
Sent off at 5-4 for a Hexham novice chase, his lack of acceleration just found him out at the end of the unsuitable extended two miles and today’s extra yardage, combined with that jumping experience, should enable him to go one better.
Ferguson will also have high hopes for Red Devil Boys in the Allied Massarellas Bentley Cash & Carry NH Flat Race.
Snapped up for £72,000 after winning between the flags in Ireland, the five-year-old made an encouraging start to life under Rules at this venue just under a year ago, filling the runner-up spot after hitting the front halfway down the straight.
With that experience behind him and another summer to strengthen up, he should pay his way before eventually tackling obstacles.
Lexington Bay developed into a smart staying handicapper on the Flat, particularly when encountering testing conditions, and Malton handler Richard Fahey now starts him over timber in the Attey Solicitors Novices’ Hurdle.
The son of High Chaparral was competitive at up to two miles on the level, and was last seen ploughing through the York mud to land a mile-and-a-half handicap, so he may need further than this distance over jumps in time, but he is a promising sort with which Fahey can go to war during the winter. Malcolm Jefferson finally got a win out of Sun Cloud at Wetherby earlier in the month and he is taken to defy a 10lb higher rating in the Cadbury Flake 99 Handicap Hurdle.
The five-year-old appeared nothing other than ordinary early in his career and produced a rather lacklustre display on his Sedgefield return, but Jefferson’s decision to try at him a trip in excess of three miles proved the making of him.
Revelling in the soft ground, Sun Cloud travelled with plenty of zest for Ryan Mania and could be called the winner a long way out, ultimately crossing the line with seven lengths to spare.
He is open to any amount of improvement faced with another test of stamina so he could still be one step ahead of the assessor.