Trainer Mark Walford hoping Ruby Island can land a bonus at Wetherby
Walford, who has trained at Sheriff Hutton since 2013, sends the fancied Ruby Island to the West Yorkshire track for the Wilmot-Smith Memorial Mares' Novices' Hurdle (2.10).
The handler is only three winners away from surpassing his previous seasonal best of 23 winners and has won over £250,000 in prize money since last April.
He told The Yorkshire Post: “We have had a great season and we are on track for our best jumps season yet.
“We have had some nice young horses come through like Choose the News and Ruby Island and obviously, Into Overdrive who is heading to Cheltenham in March for the Ultima Handicap Chase, which we are all very excited about.
“Ruby Island heads to Wetherby looking to win her second novice hurdle. She has been great for us. She was only a cheap buy from a friend of mine, Chris Dawson, who has a stud near Sedgefield and she’s been superb.
“She was very tricky in her early days and Marcus Haigh who works for us had a lot of hairy moments but he got her sorted out eventually. He got on her a few days I certainly wouldn’t have fancied it.
“She only ended up at my spot because she was very difficult and without Marcus we’d have struggled - not many others would have got on her - but we thought we’d give her a chance and are so glad we did.
“If she wins she will win an extra £20,000 bonus under the Great British Bonus Scheme which would be great.”
Stablemate Classic Lady is due to have her second run in the same race following a long lay-off in which she had a foal and was also injured, while Walford also sends Bon Retour for the William Hill Pick Your Places Handicap Hurdle (3.23) – a first outing since switching from Nicky Richards’ stable.
Wetherby is where Walford struck in the feature Rowland Meyrick Chase on Boxing Day with the aforementioned Into Overdrive.
It was an emotional win for the stable and owners, the Hamilton family, which saw jockey Jamie ride the horse to victory for his parents Michael and Wendy.
“They have had the family for a long time so it is nice that they have got another good one, too,” he said.
“He can be a bit of a tricky customer but my assistant Will Milburn goes out on his own with him and he seems to have really got the knack with him and has been a big help.
“We had a few options for him. We were looking at the Sky Bet Chase at Doncaster at the end of January but he wasn’t quite 100 per cent after a scope. When you are going into those races you need absolutely everything to be spot on and he just wasn’t.
“We’ve given him a little bit of an easy time and got everything cleared up and hopefully we will now get a clear run up to Cheltenham.
Into Overdrive is currently 10-1 with Sky Bet for the Grade Three handicap on March 14 and despite not being seen since his Wetherby win, that doesn’t concern his trainer.
He said: “I’m not worried about him having a big break between races as he can run well fresh. It’s exciting for the yard to have a horse like that. The first time we have had a jumper as good and we are heading to Cheltenham with a real live chance
“It is not one of the biggest races at Cheltenham but for us - a smallish operation compared to the big southern stables - it’s a big opportunity for us."
The feature today is the William Hill Towton Novices' Chase (Grade 2) - named after the famous 1861 battle in the War of the Roses - which has only attracted four runners for the £23,000 first prize, with the overnight market headed by Ballygrifincottage for Dan and Harry Skelton.
There will be a Medieval Living History encampment within the paddock enclosure and the chance to try on armour as part of a family fun day out.
Under 18s race free at Wetherby Racecourse this Saturday, making a day at the races the perfect family day out. To find your local raceday visit greatbritishracing.com/everyonesturf