Harris backing Scriptwriter to give winning performance.
Milton Harris maintains that Scriptwriter has matured and hopes that Saturday’s JCB Triumph Trial Juvenile Hurdle, the first of nine bumper races at Cheltenham, will reveal the proof.
Harris wisely purchased the Churchill gelding, a Group Three performer for Aidan O’Brien on the Flat, and the Warminster handler has won all three of his starts with him.
He won in November over a similar distance on the Old Course, and he returns to Prestbury Park’s New Course after winning a decent all-weather Flat handicap at Wolverhampton.
In a warm renewal of the two-mile, one-furlong race, Scriptwriter faces seven rivals, including Comfort Zone, Chepstow’s Grade Two Finale Juvenile Hurdle hero trained by Joseph O’Brien, and Jupiter Du Gite, Gary Moore’s runaway Newbury winner.
After overseeing his most recent sharpener, Harris, on the other hand, exudes confidence.
He said: “Scriptwriter went to Kempton on Tuesday and did a little piece of work over a mile.
“He is in a very good place and obviously we had that little run at Wolverhampton, which was good.
“He is a good horse and he seems to have blossomed. He wouldn’t want extreme soft ground, but I don’t think we are going to get that.
“While the race will be a little bit better than it might have been because everywhere else has been off, I’m very happy with him. He’s definitely improved since his first two hurdle runs, so we’re looking forward to it.”
Henri The Second seeks a second Grade Two victory in the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle to add to his Winter Novices’ Hurdle victory at Sandown.
Paul Nicholls is slightly concerned that Harry Cobden’s horse, who finished second to Chianti Classico on his seasonal debut at Chepstow, will give weight to all ten competitors in the two-and-a-half-mile race.
The champion trainer said: “He has got a 5lb penalty for winning the Grade Two at Sandown Park before Christmas and that won’t make life easy against good horses.
“He is obviously a nice horse and he has already won a good race this season. He is in good shape and he will stay up that Cheltenham hill, but he has got a big task with the penalty.
“He ran very well last time, however we thought he would go well on his first run but he was a bit green. He is still learning and there is plenty of improvement to come from him yet.
“He wasn’t quite ready for the Leamington at Warwick as he had a hard race at Sandown, so he needed that little bit of extra time, but we have got him back where we want him now.”
One of the challengers is Can You Call, who has gained 13 pounds since winning a heavy-ground Uttoxeter handicap hurdle the previous time around.
Evan Williams, his trainer, is hopeful that the eight-year-old can justify his official rating of 131.
He said: “The handicapper obviously thinks we should be in a race like that, taking on those kind of horses, so let’s give it a go.
“I never question the handicapper. He knows, he’s the professional, he’s the man. We just go where the handicapper says we should go. If he says we are up to that class, and says ‘get in there and get your share of 50 grand’, then that’s what we’ll try to do.
“It is a good race, as it should be, but two thirds of the field can’t beat us according to the man at the BHA, so we’re looking forward to picking up the money.”
15 horses compete in the Glenfarclas Cross Country Handicap Chase, led by Festival winner Delta Work and Grand National winner Minella Times from the 2021 season.
Snow Leopardess, the 2021 Becher Chase winner, makes her debut on the unusual course, which Back On The Lash has already mastered.
At the November meeting of the previous season, Martin Keighley’s representative won over the same course and three-and-a-quarter miles, and the Condicote handler anticipates a bold performance once more.
He said: “He’s in great form and hopefully it will go ahead, because he loves it round there. It looks a hot race again, but he’d have a decent chance.”
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