Greatwood favourite Vaniteux to carry top weight

DONCASTER, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 06: Barry Geraghty riding Vaniteux clear the last to win The Eventmasters Ltd EBF 'NAtional Hunt' Novices' Hurdle Race at Doncaster racecourse on February 06, 2014 in Doncaster, England. (Photo by Alan Crowhurs

Vaniteux: finished third in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle last season

  PICTURE: Getty images  

VANITEUX will bid to defy topweight to land Sunday’s StanJames.com Greatwood Hurdle at Cheltenham following a raft of withdrawals from those originally above him in the weights.

The likes of Rock On Ruby, Purple Bay and Irving all ran in the Elite Hurdle at Wincanton last Saturday while Get Me Out Of Here and Sign Of A Victory, Vaniteux’s stablemate, ran at Ascot the week before, meaning the weights will now rise a stone with the Nicky Henderson-trained five-year-old set to shoulder the most.

Vaniteux, a best-priced 5-1 with William Hill, was last seen finishing third in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at the Festival last season and will bid to emulate the likes of Detroit City and Menorah who both landed the Grade 2 handicap carrying  topweight.

Dan Skelton’s Blue Heron, 20-1 with Paddy Power, is next after an impressive win at Kempton on his comeback with Garde Le Victoire, Roman Flight and Goodwood Mirage all towards the head of the weights.

 

Exitas, a 12-1 chance with sponsors Stan James, looks very much to be a horse on an upward curve. The six-year-old, who is owned and trained by Phil Middleton, has won his last three starts in great style.

“He was turned out in the field yesterday and he took off on all fours and let rip,” said Middleton on Monday.

“I think Cheltenham will suit him and he is nicely in the handicap now. I think Charlie Deutsch will probably ride him again, although I am a bit sick that he lost his 7lb claim when we won at Sandown. I was thinking we would have a 5lb penalty but with Charlie’s claim down to 5lb, he effectively has a 7lb penalty.

“Exitas will have a good chance on Sunday I think. There is more to come from the horse – I ran him at Sandown to make sure he would get in the Greatwood but as it turned out, he would have got in anyway.

“It could have been a mistake to go to Sandown but what we do know for sure now after Sandown is that he is a better horse with a bit of cut in the ground. I always thought he would be better with cut and so it has been proved.

“We will go to Cheltenham knowing that both the track and ground will suit him. He has feet like soup plates and his knee action has told us all along that soft ground would suit him. We have run him on good ground in the past and got away with it, but we never ran him when there was any firm in the going description.

“It’s all very exciting and I don’t think I will be sleeping much before Sunday! It is cotton wool time for Exitas.”

 

Willie Mullins may run Daneking or Clondaw Warrior while the only other Irish possible is Tony Martin’s Shemshal.

The Paul Nicholls-trained Pearl Swan, who has not been seen on the track since February 2013, Baltimore Rock, Mijhaar and Regal Encore are other interesting contenders.

The Tom George-trained Olofi, who won the race in 2012, is another eye-catching runner as he has been off the track since he unseated jockey Paddy Brennan on his chasing debut at Wetherby in April 2013 and is 1lb lower than when taking the spoils two years ago.

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