Best still to come from Peddlers, says McCain
EMERGING hurdling talent Peddlers Cross, which took the scalp of Binocular on Saturday on his first venture into the senior ranks, is unlikely to cross swords with the reigning king again until the Champion Hurdle.
The new kid on the block will skip the next date on the top-level domestic two-mile circuit, next month's Christmas Hurdle at Kempton, in favour of the Grade Two trial at Haydock in January.
The five-year-old took his unbeaten run to seven in the Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newbury, a sequence that includes two victories over two and a half miles.
The sharp Sunbury test is not considered one to play to his strengths, even though it is now established that those do include a highly effective burst of acceleration.
"The speed he's got scares me to death," said trainer Donald McCain yesterday. "And he showed at Newbury what we see at home. But even so, Kempton would be the least likely track you'd want to send him to."
Binocular, which was more than seven lengths adrift on Saturday, with Starluck intervening, was ring-rusty on his seasonal reappearance -- he jumped well but the outing will tighten him up physically -- and trainer Nicky Henderson was quick to point out that the big day for which he will be honed is more than three months away.
But neither was Peddlers Cross, now alongside the Willie Mullins' challenger Hurricane Fly as second-favourite behind Binocular for the Festival showpiece in most lists, fully wound up.
"I'm sure the other horses will improve," said McCain, "but so will we. Once he gets to the front he doesn't do a lot, but when Starluck came at him he picked up again.
"What he does is keep winning, which is what the job is about, and we still haven't got to the bottom of him."
The opportunity to see some of Ireland's title contenders, including Hurricane Fly, yesterday was lost with the meeting at snowbound Fairyhouse, now rescheduled for Thursday.
Prospects in England are bleak. Some jumps cards this week have already been cancelled.
There is an inspection at Folkestone this morning and Saturday's Tingle Creek meeting at Sandown is under threat.
Fairyhouse are keeping their fingers crossed that they will be able to go ahead on Thursday with their postponed bumper programme, headed by the Bar One Hatton's Grace Hurdle.
Manager Peter Roe said: "We are now looking at running an eight-race card on Thursday. With seven of the eight races being Graded this will be a mouth-watering day's racing. The first race will be 11.50 with free admission."
Saturday's two chasing heroes, the Hennessy Gold Cup winner Diamond Harry and the gallant third Denman, were reported to have emerged from the contest unscathed.
Denman will not appear again until the Cheltenham Gold Cup and Diamond Harry just once -- the Lexus Chase at Leopardstown after Christmas or a prep at Cheltenham in January are the options pencilled in by trainer Nick Williams.
As for Noel Meade's luckless Pandorama, the Meath trainer is also probably going to head for Leopardstown next. The gelding suffered a series of mishaps at Newbury, forcing Paul Carberry to pull him up early in the race.
"It was just most unfortunate," said Meade. "He made a bad mistake at the second fence, ran into the fallers at the fourth, then he made another mistake at the next.
"I'd doubt very much he'd go for the Durkan (Punchestown) now -- we'll probably wait. We might run him at Christmas, but I haven't really thought about it yet."
Meanwhile, Ascot is next up for the Paul Nicholls-trained Big Buck's following his snug success in the Long Distance Hurdle.
Nicholls said: "He will go to Ascot now, all being well, and follow the same path as before. AP (McCoy) said he was awesome and we all know he is a class horse."
Today may be decision day for Gold Cup winner Imperial Commander, whose clash with Kauto Star in the King George VI Chase on St Stephen's Day has been in the balance since he suffered a cut leg on his winning return at Haydock nine days ago.
"The wound is still open, but it's healing better every day," said trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies. "But he hasn't been out of his box since Haydock."
This week could be crucial to Noel Fehily, who suffered a suspected fractured wrist soon after being named as Kauto Star's rider at Kempton, replacing the injured Ruby Walsh.
Fehily will see a specialist tomorrow and has not yet abandoned hope of partnering the great horse. (© Independent News Service)
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