01 December 2022

Maximilian poised for test of his credentials at Sandown

01 December 2022

Maximilian will put his unbeaten record on the line when he takes on five rivals in the Grade Two Ballymore Winter Novices’ Hurdle at Sandown on Friday, with trainer Donald McCain hoping the race has not come a week too soon.

The six-year-old won a point-to-point over three miles, before winning two Carlisle bumpers for the Cholmondeley yard last season.

After making a winning hurdling debut at the same track over two and a half miles, he further advertised his potential with a nine-and-a-half-length success on his last run at Bangor, having been stepped up to two miles and seven furlongs.

McCain was in two minds about heading to Sandown for a step up in class and a drop back to two and a half miles for the gelding, who runs in the colours of the Owners Group.

He explained: “We like him, obviously. The only other was race Cheltenham next week and I had no inclination to go there at this point. It is possibly a week too soon, but if we get a race in now, we can take a little bit of time then.

“We were very pleased with the way he ran at Bangor and Carlisle. As for plans, we will take it one race at a time and keep our heads down, and keep going.

“The ground will be fine. I think he will go on anything, to be honest.”

The ground on the hurdle course at the Esher track is officially described as soft, which David Pipe feels will suit Man At Work, who had the reopposing Henry’s Friend five lengths behind in third when scoring over a similar trip at Aintree on his hurdling debut.

The four-year-old, owned by art critic, lecturer and film-maker Caroline Tisdall in partnership with Bryan Drew, stayed on strongly to score with some ease, and Pipe hopes he can back up that eyecatching run.

He said: “It was a nice performance at Aintree. He jumped, travelled and stayed well.

“It is going to be soft ground on the hurdle track at Sandown, which is good. He is a big horse and he is improving.

“Obviously he has to step up, but hopefully he will develop into a nice horse. He will tell us where his future lies, but he definitely has the size to be a chaser in the future.”

Henri The Second, who won a well-contested Listed bumper at Ascot last December, was beaten on his hurdling debut at Chepstow, the odds-on shot going down to Chianti Classico.

He is trained by in-form Paul Nicholls, who has sent out 13 winners from his last 46 runners over the past two weeks at a strike rate of 28 per cent, and connections are expecting the five-year-old to progress from his narrow loss.

He has done plenty of schooling since and he's improved a little bit for the run, and we'd be confident and hopeful of a good run

Nicholls’ assistant, Charlie Davies, said: “He was a bit green and a bit novicey with his jumping. He made quite a serious error three out when he sprawled a bit on landing, and it took him a bit of time to get back running again.

“He has done plenty of schooling since and he’s improved a little bit for the run, and we’d be confident and hopeful of a good run.

“If anything, the soft ground will help him, as he won at Ascot on a bit of a slower surface. It won’t inconvenience him at all. We were genuinely surprised he got beaten, but he might have got beaten by a fairly decent horse of Kim Bailey’s.

“We have not lost any faith in him at all, and we are hopeful of a bold show.”

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