By Gordon Brown
ALAIN CAWLEY is looking forward to the plum mount on big-race favourite The Shunter as Kelso stages the richest meeting in its history on Saturday.
The Irish raider, a first-ever runner at the borders track for Co Carlow-based Emmet Mullins, faces 13 rivals in the £75,000 bet365 Morebattle Hurdle which features a £100,000 bonus should the winner go on to land any contest at the Cheltenham Festival.
Cawley, who was on the scoresheet at Musselburgh on Wednesday, said: “I’ve never ridden him before but he’s shown pretty decent form over hurdles and fences this season. His only other trip across to the UK was when he won the Greatwood Hurdle at Cheltenham in November and I thought he was pretty impressive that day.”
Opposition to The Shunter includes hat-trick seeking Faivoir trained by Dan Skelton and Paul Nicholls pair Solo and Christopher Wood, the latter of whom won the Scottish County Hurdle at Musselburgh four weeks ago.
The star-studded bet365 sponsored card carries total value of over £213,000 and also boasts the £40,000 Grade 2 Premier Novices’ Hurdle and the £45,000 Listed Premier Chase.
Jonjo O’Neill’s leading Grand National fancy Cloth Cap, the winner of the Ladbrokes Trophy Chase at Newbury in November, is one of six declared for the former with Nick Alexander-trained Lake View Lad also using the race as a stepping-stone for next month’s Aintree marathon.
Donald McCain-trained Bareback Jack, three from three over timber and the winner of his sole point to point, puts his unbeaten record on the line in the Premier Hurdle under champion jockey Brian Hughes.