MALTON trainer Brian Ellison was out of luck at Cheltenham on Wednesday. One of his main hopes, Abergavenny, suffered a fatal fall in the Coral Cup and Red Inca, another leading fancy for the Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle, just failed to get a run.
Stormy Weather was also targeted at yesterday’s Vincent O’Brien Handicap Hurdle but was also eliminated and stays nearer home for the Hadrian Air Conditioning Handicap Hurdle at Newcastle today.
It’s a far cry from the Grade Three contest at Cheltenham and worth peanuts compared to the County Hurdle, but there still has to be a winner, whatever the rewards.
Stormy Weather was disappointing for Howard Johnson when his sole victory came at Newcastle as a juvenile, but Ellison (pictured left) has sorted out his problems, and the six-year-old returned to Tyneside two years later to land his first prize for his new stable en-route to Musselburgh where he lifted the Scottish version of the County Hurdle.
Back at Newcastle for his hat-trick bid, Stormy Weather had to play second best to Palawi and a 4lb rise for another improved showing wasn’t enough to earn his place in the Cheltenham line-up.
Ellison also runs John Forbes, who has been a grand servant to the yard, but he is not the force he was, and Red Merlin and Into Wain look more dangerous.
The former hasn’t raced since completing a hat-trick at Wetherby last April when he was unpenalised for two wins in conditional jockeys’ handicaps.
He suffered a setback after that and connections have given him plenty of time and kept him for a spring campaign. He must have decent ground.
His trainer Donald McCain regards him as a horse of fairly high quality with a good engine and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him resume his career where he left off.
A race at the Grand National meeting might well be on the agenda.
Into Wain won a couple of hurdle races before scoring on the Flat on Kempton’s Polytrack, but was put firmly in his place by Tap Night in Kelso’s Premier Hurdle. This is easier.
Cloudy Too was having his first run since mid-December when fourth to Golden Call at Bangor. He attracted market support on the morning of the race and, though he lacked the pace to stay involved, he will be more at home on this stiffer track and may be the answer to the Guinness Handicap Hurdle.
Owner Terry Warner was keen to run his progressive Big Easy at Cheltenham this week but he was never going to make the cut for the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle and turns up instead at Kempton for the 32Red Handicap Hurdle.
After quietly improving in novice hurdles, the five-year-old hasn’t looked back since going handicapping over a longer trip and is on a hat-trick following wins at Doncaster and Bangor.
He had the rejuvenated Corkage back in third at Doncaster and that rival has since boosted the form, while he defied a 13lb rise at Bangor despite untidy jumps at the last two flights.
Big Easy has gone up another 8lb but gives the impression there is more to come.
Charlie Longsden is bullish about the chance of Cross Of Honour in the Betfred Handicap Hurdle at Uttoxeter, where he renews rivalry with Bar de Ligne, who beat him seven lengths at Market Rasen in January.