'Athlete' can go the distance for Keighley
Martin Keighley's horses have been in excellent heart recently, with yesterday's Doncaster winner Hypnotic Gaze his third on the bounce this week.
Tomorrow, the Gloucestershire handler sends his first runner of the season to Sedgefield, which is of note given that last term he saddled one winner from his only two runners there in recent years.
Mauricetheathlete, with Jason Maguire up, can maintain Keighley's impressive momentum in the Arctic Warrior Handicap Hurdle.
A moderate horse by any standards, Mauricetheathlete has hardly lived up to his name, with not a single victory to show for 13 racecourse starts to date. However, a number of placed efforts have suggested that he should be capable of winning a race, and this Sedgefield contest might just be the one.
Despite the 12-strong field, there is no great strength in depth to the line-up, and the step up to a marathon distance of three miles and three furlongs is expected to bring out the best in Mauricetheathlete.
On his most recent start over the large part of three miles at Hereford, the eight-year-old kept on well for third.
He has been dropped 2lbs for that to 93, which means he has consistently fallen from a career-high rating of 111 over the past 12 months.
With a rider of Maguire's class taking over in such a winnable contest, it will be a surprise if the selection doesn't figure prominently.
Also tomorrow, Nicky Henderson and Tony McCoy are fancied to score with Sizing Ireland in the Racing UK-sponsored two-and-a-half-mile maiden hurdle at Huntingdon. This is another sub-standard event, and Sizing Ireland has hinted at ability in his three bumper outings.
A beaten odds-on favourite on his debut last spring, he kept on for a reasonable fourth on his seasonal reappearance at Market Rasen last month. Now that he switches to jumping and steps up in trip, he should be a more potent proposition.