FRESH from claiming Champion Hurdle glory with Espoir D’Allen on Tuesday, Gavin Cromwell sends the 14-year-old Raz De Maree into battle in today’s Midlands National at Uttoxeter – and believes he has plenty in his favour.
Victorious in last season’s Welsh National under teenager James Bowen, Conor Orr, another leading conditional rider, will be in the saddle and utilising a five-pound weight allowance.
Cromwell said: “He seems in good form, and it will be the first time he’s had his ground this season.
“He gets in with a nice weight on his back, and I hope he’ll run a tidy race.”
Reflecting on his Tuesday triumph in which Espoir D’Allen provided owner JP McManus with a record eighth win in the Champion Hurdle, he added: “It’s still sinking in, to be honest.
“I’m actually going home to Ireland on Friday night, because I promised I’d bring my little lad on a day trip to Uttoxeter to see Raz De Maree.
“I’m flying home and then flying back with him on Saturday morning.”
Milansbar filled the runner-up spot in this four-mile-two-furlong marathon in 2016 and again 12 months ago, and trainer Neil King believes he has every chance of making it third-time lucky.
He will be ridden by Bryony Frost who lit up Cheltenham with her Ryanair Chase win on the Paul Nicholls-trained Frodon.
“He’s been top-weight the twice he has run in it, and he’s a long way off top-weight this time – which is a big plus,” said King.
“He’s in very good form, and I was very pleased with his run at Newbury – I thought he was staying on well at the finish.
“He’ll love the ground and obviously likes the track, so I hope he should run a big race.”
Another rider looking to draw inspiration from Cheltenham is Noel Fehily who partners top weight American for Harry Fry.
Fehily, a veteran of the weighing room, announced after his Festival win aboard Eglantine Du that he intends to retire in the coming weeks.
American, winner of the novice handicap chase on this card in 2017, returns to Uttoxeter with plenty to prove – albeit on his favoured deep ground.
He finished down the field in the Cheltenham Gold Cup 12 months ago and was pulled up on his only previous start this season in the Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury in early December.
Fry said: “It looks like he’s finally going to get his conditions, which is good. He ran no sort of race at Newbury – and with top-weight, it’s obviously a tough ask.
“But he will like the ground and he has form at the track. Fingers crossed, he can bounce back.”
Yorkshire hopes rest with Chef D’Oeuvre for Guiseley trainer Sam England and her husband Jonathan who will be in the saddle.