Scottish Champion Hurdle Guide

1. Verdana Blue

Trainer - Nicky Henderson

Jockey - Connor Brace

One of two Henderson horse's who skipped their entries at Aintree last week due to the soft going, but the mare Verdana Blue will have her optimum conditions at Ayr on Saturday.

She will relish the good bouncy ground which she used to her advantage over dual Champion Hurdle Buveur D'Air in the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton.

She also won the Elite Hurdle over future Aintree scorer If The Cap Fits and the ill-fated We Have A Dream, and she must hold leading claims in this given her profile.

2. Brain Power

T - Nicky Henderson

J - Aidan Coleman

Chasing campaign failed, so brought back to hurdles for the International at Cheltenham earlier in the season, where he came through a ready winner.

Was pulled up in a fast and furious Champion Hurdle, but this is less hot and should see him back on the scoresheet in one form or another.

Was withdrawn with Verdana Blue last week at Aintree, and both should be fresh as daisies.

3. Mister Fisher

T - Nicky Henderson

J - Nico De Boinville

The Nicky Henderson show rolls on with Mister Fisher, who you could class a shade unfortunate in his big test at the Cheltenham Festival.

A winner of a useful novice hurdle at Kempton on King George day before successful in a Supreme Trial at Haydock, he was just caught a shade outpaced on the downward run in the real thing at Prestbury Park.

The conditions didn't really favour anyone outside the top three, but he was not overly disgraced back in eighth.

This is less hot and very much his level - should be a leading contender.

4. Leoncavallo

T - Dr Richard Newland

J - Sam Twiston-Davies

This highly experienced seven-year-old - trained by the master Dr Richard Newland, left plenty of questions to answer after his mediocre performance in the County Hurdle behind Ch'tibello.

Had been in fine fettle in his three previous outings this term albeit in weaker races, and won smartly eleven months ago at Ludlow on good ground.

Appears to act on that best, so no excuses here today.

5. Redicean

T - Alan King

J - Wayne Hutchinson

What once looked an outstanding four-year-old juvenile hurdler, Redicean has failed to really live up to the hype that he once offered and has been acting on the all-weather in each of his last four starts.

He has won a couple of times on the artificial surface for Alan King, but a one-time Grade One Triumph Hurdle fancy makes his return to timber in this decent affair.

Work to do on all accounts, but a return to form would not be surprising given his class and talent.

6. Malaya

T - Paul Nicholls

J - Harry Cobden

As Paul Nicholls closes in on an eleventh Champion Trainer's Championship, Malaya can edge him a bit closer with a win in this Grade Two over two-miles.

The young five-year-old landed Grade Three honours at Sandown on Imperial Cup day, and a repeat of that effort would certainly see her in contention.

Big chance for Mrs Johnny de la Hey.

7. Caius Marcius

T - Nicky Richards

J - Danny McMenamin

Last three efforts have all come in Class One company, and despite taking Listed honours at Market Rasen, he failed to stake a claim in a Grade Three latest.

Although saying latest, he has been off the track for 146 days - which is more than his official rating.

He didn't show much in the Greatwood and hard to know if the break has done him any good.

Hard to provide a case for at this level.

8. Nube Negra

T - Dan Skelton

J - Harry Skelton

Interesting to see how he leads the market on this one, and has always been highly thought of since making the move from sunny Spain.

Yet to really show us what he is all about, and finished third behind Zanza at Newbury three weeks ago when just denied second on the line.

Once placed in the Fred Winter at the Cheltenham Festival, and time to put his best put forward.

9. Anemoi

T - Harry Whittingdon

J - Gavin Sheehan

Gavin Sheehan and Harry Whittingdon have had some proud days to look back on this campaign in the colours of Kate & Andrew Brooks, with Anemoi having a useful novice season over hurdles.

His first two attempts provided two victories at Doncaster and at Ascot, before losing his unbeaten record when third at Cheltenham on New Years Day.

He placed once more in the Greene King Handicap Hurdle at Taunton, but more may have been expected that day.

Can go well again here.

10. Equus Amadeus

T - Tom Lacey

J - Richard Johnson

A challenge looks unlikely given his poor record this term, where he has failed to feature in most of his outings away from his Class Two victory at Doncaster.

His one step in Class One territory came at Ascot back in February when someway adrift of Betfair Hurdle winner Al Dancer - yet he did not even make a name for himself at Cheltenham.

This might be a step too far.

11. Dino Velvet

T - Alan King

J - Paddy Brennan

Dino Velvet bids for a possible hat-trick on Scottish territory, after triumphs at Stratford and Market Rasen in the last couple of months.

Both those efforts came at Class Three level so merits a step-up in class, and also most importantly on good ground which this highly experienced six-year-old loves to spring off.

Certainly turned a corner in recent weeks, and connections will be hoping for more of the same.

12. Pearl Of The West

T - John McConnell

J - Sean Bowen

Away from his close second at Dundalk at the end of last month, Pearl Of The West has been away for quite some time from the National Hunt scene.

He won a nice Class Two ahead of Redicean at Cheltenham back in October, and if building on that he will be seen in good light.

Also upset Pakora - a short price fav for Willie Mullins at Bellewstown back in August, and could be seen to good use here.

13. Irish Roe

T - Peter Atkinson

J - Henry Brooke

Failed to win any race in the last twelve months, and given her performances, she may in a shade too deep in this contest.

An upset looks unlikely after finishing ahead of just three horses in a double-figure field at Kelso three weeks ago in a handicap won nicely by Winston C.

Major improvement required to even be in with a squeak.

14. Captain Moirette

T - Sue Smith

J - Danny Cook

Messers Smith and Cook combine with Captain Moirette on the Midnight Shadow colours of Mrs Aafke Clarke, who is a very lightly raced seven-year-old.

The grey will be in search of a hat-trick following successes in lower levels at Haydock and Catterick, of which he was an easy winner on Merseyside on his latest start.

More if needed to be in with a shout of this, but open to further improvement.

15. Get Out The Gate

T - Jim Goldie

J - Callum Bewley

All of his last three outings have come in Scotland, but he has not found the path to winners enclosure at Kelso in the last couple of months.

His best effort was second in a smaller field to the impressive We Have A Dream who is sadly no longer with us, and he was well held by the winner.

Has plenty to find on most of these, and others would be placed on top of it.