Nigel Twiston-Davies reports star performer Ballyandy to have taken to fences well, ahead of his highly anticipated chasing debut at Perth this afternoon.
A former Cheltenham Festival winner, he makes start since March’s showcase meeting six months ago, taking on former Festival runner-up Fagan in a four runner Timothy Hardie Jewellers Novices’ Chase (4:30).
The 2016 Champion Bumper hero enjoyed a stellar campaign as a novice hurdler last season, winning the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury before finishing fourth in the Supreme Novice Hurdle.
He hasn’t been seen since his eleven-length defeat to 50-1 outsider Labaik at Cheltenham, but his popular trainer is confident he is a horse that’ll improve now switched to fences.
“He’s a very good horse and we are really glad to get him back on a racecourse,” said the Gloucestershire-based trainer.
“It’s his first time over fences but he seems to have schooled very well at home, he’s been in really good form.
“He does go up in trip today but I don’t think that’ll bother him at all.
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Ballyandy was an impressive winner of a competitive Betfair Hurdle at Newbury
“We aren’t really sure where exactly we want to take him further down the line, today is an important day to learn a bit more about him.
“He’s a great horse, and hopefully he can make a winning debut today.”
Although connections remain unsure of a principal Cheltenham Festival target for Ballyandy, bookmakers have priced him as short as 16/1 for next year’s JLT Novices’ Chase.
Twiston-Davies’ six-year-old will hope to follow in the footsteps of Yorkhill, Vautour and Sir Des Champs which have won the 2m4f event on Gold Cup day.
In today’s Perth contest Fagan looks to be the key rival for Ballyandy. Gordon Elliott’s seven-year-old shares strong Festival form having finished a close second behing Unowhatimeanharry in the 2016 Albert Bartlett.
He has already made a winning start over fences, having won a novice chase at this venue back in July by just shy of a hundred lengths.
Patrick Griffin’s Chitu and Malcom Jefferson also take their place in the contest.
Ballyandy is currently an 8/11 favourite to make a winning debut.