TRAINER Ruth Jefferson is planning to send the unbeaten Buster Valentine for a crack at the Grade Two Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle on Festival Trials Day at Cheltenham later this month.
The six-year-old, who races in the colours of the Mount Fawcus Partnership, made a winning debut for Jefferson when the comfortable winner of a two-mile maiden hurdle at Ayr in November.
He followed up on that success last time out when landing a novices’ hurdle over an extended two and a half miles at Newcastle on December 22.
He was ridden on both occasions by Henry Brooke, who partnered Basildon to victory at Newcastle yesterday for Brian Ellison.
“Buster Valentine is in good form,” said Malton-based Jefferson. “He has won his first two starts for us very nicely and he took the step up in trip well at Newcastle last time.
“The target now is the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle Trial at Cheltenham on Festival Trials Day. We are looking forward to running him there.”
Staged over two and a half miles, the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle – due to be staged on January 26 – frequently provides valuable clues for the National Hunt Festival in March.
Past winners to triumph in this race, and then at jump racing’s showcase meeting, in the same season include Monsignor, At Fishers Cross, Wichita Lineman and Bobs Worth, who ultimately went on to win a Gold Cup.
Meanwhile Jefferson is on weather watch for her stable star Waiting Patiently, who has been pulled out of this weekend’s Grade One Clarence House Chase at Ascot because it would be futile to drop the horse back to two miles, and face the imperious Altior, when the going is quick at the Berkshire track.
She told The Yorkshire Post that the horse, who was previously unbeaten over fences before being badly impeded by a faller in last month’s King George VI Chase at Kempton, is entered in two possible races at next month’s Dublin Racing Festival at Leopardstown.
They are the two-mile Dublin Chase on February 2 and the three-mile Irish Gold Cup 24 hours later, but she warned that there would have to be significant rain for the horse, owned by Richard Collins, to make the trip across the Irish Sea.
Another trainer on weather watch is Kayley Woollacott, who is prepared to send Lalor straight to the Cheltenham Festival without another run.
Woollacott is hoping to run her stable star in the Lightning Novices’ Chase at Doncaster on January 26 as a prep race for the Arkle in March.
“Lalor is in really good form, he’s done some lovely pieces of work recently. He’s ticking along, looks great and has been squealing and bucking every day,” the trainer said in her Betway blog.
“We’re really pleased with him at the moment. The plan is still the Lightning Novices’ Chase at Doncaster at the end of the month, although we’ll need some rain. If it’s too quick he’ll go straight to Cheltenham, and I wouldn’t be worried about the gap between races. He’s always gone well fresh.”
Grade Two winner Global Citizen is “70 per cent likely” to take his chance in The New One Unibet Hurdle at Haydock.
Trainer Ben Pauling sees Saturday’s two-mile Grade Two contest, better known as the Champion Hurdle trial, as the ideal test for his seven-year-old, who was fourth to Verdana Blue in the Grade One Christmas Hurdle at Kempton on Boxing Day.