Pipe launches dual attack on rescheduled Cleeve prize
The Grade Two contest was rescheduled after Cheltenham was abandoned last weekend and it has an open look about it with Paisley Park not making the journey to West Yorkshire.
Main Fact was well-beaten behind Paisley Park in the Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot, but Pipe felt he ran below par that day and is expecting a better performance.
Main Fact had won his previous nine races, six over jumps and three on the Flat, and had seen his hurdles rating rocket from 98 to 154.
“Main Fact should like conditions. I’m not sure he put his true run in last time, so going back left-handed will suit and hopefully he has a chance,” said the Nicholashayne handler.
“Maybe he had an off-day at Ascot or that is as good as he is. We’ll find out this time.”
Ramses De Teillee won a pair of Grade Two novice hurdles last spring and switches back to the smaller obstacles after three runs over fences following a fruitless trip to Auteuil for the French Champion Hurdle in October.
“He’s a hard horse to place nowadays, so we thought we’d try him back over hurdles. He did well over hurdles last year,” said Pipe.
“Again, he won’t mind the ground. Track and conditions should suit.
“They’ve both got their flippers on!”
Olly Murphy is giving Itchy Feet a confidence-boosting run over the smaller obstacles after he burst a blood vessel on his last start over fences at Ascot in December.
The Stratford trainer has been pleased the way Itchy Feet has been schooling and believes the seven-year-old has each-way claims.
“He’s in good nick. He’s obviously reverting to hurdling and will hopefully get his confidence back,” he said.
“He’s a horse with a big engine and if things go right, he has a good each-way chance.
“He just didn’t jump with any fluency at Ascot. He just had a bleed on his last run.
“I just thought it (reverting to hurdles) was the right thing to do. If he had another fright over fences we might be in all sorts of bother, so that’s why we’re back over hurdles. He’s been schooling well. All his form reads well.”
Ballyoptic also reverts to hurdling as he bids to win a third big prize at the West Yorkshire track.
The Nigel Twiston-Davies-trained gelding has won a Charlie Hall Chase and the Towton Novices’ Chase, but has made little show in three starts this term.
“He’s won a Charlie Hall at Wetherby and we’re looking forward to taking him back,” he said.
“He hasn’t run over hurdles in a long time, but we’re struggling to find races for him at the moment – where do you go with a horse rated as high as he is?”
On The Blind Side was not in the original race last weekend, but his trainer Nicky Henderson has given the go-ahead for the nine-year-old to take his chance a week later.
Henderson told Unibet: “He really is in a rich vein of form and hasn’t put a foot wrong at all since winning one of those jumpers’ bumpers at Newcastle around this time last year.
“I really like the way he knuckled down to win at Market Rasen last time when conceding 4lb to Lil Rockerfeller.
“This looks a decent race, but conditions are right for him and I’m hopeful of a big run.”
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