Sandown is the favoured option for Edwardstone this week-end
Besides being a fervent Arsenal supporter, Andrew Cooper has plenty of other qualities, not least being held in high esteem by racing professionals as one of the best clerks of the course in the game.
However, as far as the experienced Cooper is concerned the word “rain” is very much his nemesis. So, while the last 48 hours have been relatively kind to the Esher track with “next to nothing” forecast for racing there today, the weathermen have warned that the heavens might well open again from the early hours of tomorrow, possibly dumping another 10mm of rain.
That prediction had Andrew searching for his worry-beads as he looks ahead to Sandown’s biggest day of the jumping season, and, not surprisingly, he has called for a 7.30am inspection.
Alan knows only too well how wet Sandown can get in certain areas when there is rain aplenty about. He has just the two entries there on Saturday, but they are a couple of Barbury’s high-profile performers, Helnwein, in the opener and our stable-star Edwardstone, who would be defending his Grade 1 Tingle Creek Chase crown.
Helnwein, denied a chance to follow up his winning hurdling debut at Warwick when Jack Frost hit Haydock Park hard on Wednesday, causing the meeting to be abandoned, has been re-routed to Sandown for a four-runner Listed hurdle, which on paper looks much tougher.
But the Noel Fehily team, who own Helnwein, have always rated this horse highly, and he never looked like getting beaten at Warwick, so it will be interesting to see how he shapes against three other previous winners.
Plan B for Edwardstone would be stepping up in trip for the Peterborough Chase at Huntingdon on Sunday, and that course has already survived two inspections, with river levels remaining high throughout this week.
However, like Sandown, Huntingdon could get up to 10mm of rain overnight according to the forecast, so I doubt whether Alan will get too much sleep as he waits to find out if Edwardstone runs at Sandown or Huntingdon this week-end – or maybe neither.
The ground seems a little less testing at present at Sandown, but the advantage Huntingdon have is that they race 24 hours later, with precious little rain predicted for Sunday.
“Whatever will be, will be,” has always been Alan’s motto in these situations, but, assessing Edwardstone’s merits, Alan said:”He is in great form and has been working well, and we think he has tightened up since he ran such a good race against Jonbon on his reappearance at Cheltenham.
“Obviously, he’ll have to take on Jonbon again if he runs at Sandown, but we are very happy with our horse, and, hopefully, the meeting will be on as that is our first choice.”
Chepstow also inspect at 7.30am tomorrow, and Alan has confirmed our Midlands National hero Major Dundee for the Welsh Grand National trial.
He added:”We are keen to give Major Dundee another run before his main target, the Classic Chase at Warwick in the new year. Should Chepstow be off, we have an option of Cheltenham next week-end, but I was pleased how well Major Dundee ran when third on his comeback run at Warwick a month ago.
“If he goes to Chepstow, he will be accompanied by Ski Lodge, who is a fine big horse and one who finished second in an Irish point-to-point. He’ll stick to bumpers this season and hurdling can wait until next winter.”