Western Ryder given Sidney Banks green light

Tue 6 Feb 2018

Warren Greatrex is keeping his fingers crossed Western Ryder can get his season back on track in the Sidney Banks Memorial Novices' Hurdle at Huntingdon on Thursday.

The six-year-old unseated champion jockey Richard Johnson when long odds-on for his hurdling debut at Stratford in November, but after showing his true colours with successive wins at Chepstow and Cheltenham, he was favourite for last month's Tolworth Hurdle.

However, Greatrex's charge finished a well-beaten fourth in the Sandown Grade One and while he holds an entry at Exeter on Sunday, he is more likely to head to Huntingdon for a race his trainer has won for the last two seasons with Ma Du Fou and Keeper Hill.

Greatrex said: "I would be favouring Huntingdon. I think that is probably the best place to go. The ground will be better there.

"The weather will be a big factor in it as it is going to be cold this week. If he doesn't go to Huntingdon, I would have thought that will be it and he will then go straight to Cheltenham."

Western Ryder is one of several inmates Greatrex hopes to see lining up at Cheltenham in March.

Spearheading the Festival team is prolific mare La Bague Au Roi, who is entered in the OLBG Mares' Hurdle and the Sun Bet Stayers' Hurdle at the showpiece fixture.

Greatrex is unlikely to make a final decision on her target until much nearer the time.

He said: "She has come out of her last run at Ascot really well and both the Mares' Hurdle and the Stayers' Hurdle are a possibility.

"We will not decide until nearer the time as there are pros and cons for both races. Against her own sex it will be very competitive and obviously Apple's Jade is a high-class mare, but you shouldn't be scared of one horse and there are other good mares in there.

"In the Stayers' she will get the 7lb allowance and she has definitely improved for the step up in trip to three miles.

"She has got a lot of potential and I still don't think we have seen the best of her yet. A lot of things can happen between now and Cheltenham."

Mulcahys Hill and Keeper Hill could both head to the Cotswolds on retrieval missions.

Mulcahys Hill disappointed when favourite for the Ballymore Classic Novices' Hurdle at Cheltenham late last month, while Keeper Hill fell when leading in the Scottish Future Champions Novices' Chase at Musselburgh last Saturday.

"Mulcahys Hill ran a bit below par at Cheltenham. I think that was my fault running him back too quickly after he finished second in the Challow at Newbury," said Greatrex.

"We will aim him at the Albert Bartlett at the Festival and just hope it gets softer during the week. We will not be running him if it is on the quick side. He definitely needs soft in the description.

"Keeper Hill jumped very well until he fell the other day. He was still in front and I think from that position it would have been hard for anything to get past him as he does stay very well.

"It is never ideal and you don't want to be going to Cheltenham on the back of a fall. We are going to do plenty of schooling with him.

"He is in the RSA and the National Hunt Chase and we will probably put him in the Ultima.

"I still think he can run a very good race at Cheltenham."

Missed Approach finished second when favourite for the Edinburgh National at Musselburgh over the weekend, but will not be heading to Cheltenham.

Greatrex added: "He ran well on Saturday and I still think there is more to come.

"He is in the Grand National, but he is probably doubtful to get in. If that's the case we might look at the Midlands National and then a tilt at the Scottish National again."

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