Should Musselburgh pass it’s 7am inspection, it will become only the second course (alongside Newcastle on Wednesday) on this side of the Irish Sea to have beaten the frost in February. Racecourse management, owners, jockeys and jumps starved racegoers – including myself! – will be hoping the cold snap bypasses the Edinburgh venue ahead of the richest fixture ever staged there.
What a fantastic card in prospect. In all, a grand total of just under £90,000 is up for grabs within the seven strong card, including four trials ahead of next month’s Cheltenham Festival, which has attracted trainers from all over the UK and Ireland.
It all kicks off with a competitive handicap hurdle with Thanks for coming likely to start in warm order for the Nicky Henderson camp. The 6 year old shoulders top weight, but Jeremiah McGrath offloads 5lb off his back. Stable jockey, Barry Geraghty rides Simonside for Brian Ellison, who’s runners always command respect here. The two that catch my eye at bigger odds are Ebanour and Bowdler’s Magic. Both stepping into handicap company for the first time, with slight perference for the latter under Richie McGrath.
Next up is a novice hurdle over the same distance, where Keys is sure to be a long odds on favourite on the back of an excellent hurdling debut at Aintree when 9 lengths adrift of Cinders and Ashes. Becausewecan and Irish raider Mill Bay are most likely to give the favourite most to think about. Mark Johnston’s charge was a gritty performer on the flat and can put his experience to good use here.
The John Smith’s Scottish Champion Chase is the first of three races with a £20,000 purse, and is sure to be a fascinating clash. Mick Easterby’s Lightening Rod will be many peoples idea of a banker given he was the only horse to make a race with current Arkle Chase favourite Sprintre Sacre at Doncaster in December. Dominic Elsworth replaces regular pilot Jake Greenall, and a clear round should see him home and hosed. On what could be a big day for Lucinda Russell, the Perthshire handler goes to war with Quito du tresor and Santas son. Both have place claims, as does Carriteau at the foot of the weights under the excellent Lucy Alexander.
Eight go to post for the Scottish Triumph Hurdle, where once again Nicky Henderson has likely favourite, Lyvius. Although receiving weight from the penalised runners, he’ll need to live up to the hype to get his head infront here on his first British start.
John Ferguson’s Creekside made an impressive start to his hurdling career and will undoubtedly go close, but it’s Scoglio who catches my attention. His first run over hurdles came at Cheltenham when 150/1 fifth behind Babymix in December. A drop in class proved just the tonic on his next outing when beating the well fancied Blue Destination by 6 lengths at Wetherby.
The best bet on the card comes in the shape of Bold Sir Brian in the John Smith’s Future Champions Novice Chase. Such is the regard that Lucinda Russell holds for the 6 year old, is that he was engaged for a Grade 1 at Sandown Park, only for the meeting to be called off.Peter Buchanan’smount is seeking a hattrick of wins over larger obstacles and can take this with minimum fuss ahead of lining up for bigger prizes at the spring festivals.
The final contest is a hunters chase, where fitness is going to have to be taken on trust, as all nine runners haven’t set foot onto a racecourse since at least October. Simonsberg, representing the shrewd Ian Ferguson yard will be a popular choice to leave punters going home happy. The top weight Bow school will be a valuable alternative, and bids to go one place better than his effort in this race two years ago.
With any luck, a few gems have been unearthed amongst the named horses. If the meeting gets the green light, and you are in the Edinburgh area I strongly suggest you make your way to Musselburgh for a super day’s action. Happy punting and good luck!