EXCITING novice chaser Cloudy Dream puts his reputation – and unbeaten record – on the line at Haydock today.
With so few suitable races, Malton trainer Malcolm Jefferson’s hand has been forced as the Trevor Hemmings-owned horse, the mount of in-form Brian Hughes, takes on Nicky Henderson’s Grade One winner Buveur D’Air at the Merseyside track.
After a winning chase debut at Carlisle, Cloudy Dream won over today’s course and distance at Haydock on his last outing, the catch is that he now has to concede 8lb to his classy rival.
“We didn’t really want to go to Kempton at Christmas and apart from this race there was nowhere else to go,” said Jefferson. “The horse is in great nick and you’ve got to take on these horses at some stage. I don’t know whether he really wants soft ground, he got away with it last time. Buveur D’Air is a good horse, but we think our horse is good too and he’s done nothing wrong so far. We’ve got to go and we are going, so we’ll see what happens.”
What’s Up Rory and Chic Name complete the select four-runner field.
Nico de Boinville will miss out on a reunion with Coneygree over the festive period as he continues to recover from a broken arm.
After having visited a surgeon at the Royal Gloucester Hospital on Thursday, the Gold Cup-winning jockey has been told he needs more time to rehabilitate before he can think of returning to the saddle.
To that end, he will not ride Coneygree, who is poised to run in either the 32Red King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day or in the Lexus Chase at Leopardstown two days later.
Connections hope to secure the services of champion jockey Richard Johnson, who was in the saddle when the horse won his Gold Cup prep race at Newbury in 2015, and also at Haydock last month when Coneygree chased home Cue Card in the Betfair Chase.
Meanwhile, Paul Nicholls is not completely ruling out Silviniaco Conti bidding for a third King George.
The 10-year-old claimed the Boxing Day showpiece in 2013 and 2014, but was pulled up when chasing the hat-trick 12 months ago. He did record a seventh Grade One victory in February’s Ascot Chase, but has not fired subsequently. “We’ll keep our options open,” said Nicholls.