Timeform's Ben Fearnley previews the Sunday's Greatwood Hurdle at Cheltenham and picks out a bet...
"He shaped well on both occasions, not getting the clearest of runs at Cheltenham (seventh) and then faring best of those held up at Ayr..."
Dan Skelton's record with his runners in the Greatwood Hurdle is very impressive. Blue Heron finished fourth in the 2014 renewal (when racing on the unfavoured inside part of the track), Superb Story was second in 2015, and North Hill Harvey went one better last year. Skelton looks set to run just one horse again in this year's Greatwood, with Mohaayed tasked with continuing the yard's excellent record in the race.
Mohaayed shares a fairly similar profile to North Hill Harvey in that he would arrive at Cheltenham as a fresh, lightly-raced second-season hurdler. North Hill Harvey was making his handicap debut in the Greatwood but Mohaayed has already had two handicap starts, in the County Hurdle and in the Scottish Champion Hurdle. He shaped well on both occasions, not getting the clearest of runs at Cheltenham (seventh) and then faring best of those held up at Ayr (third behind Chesterfield, who also has an entry here). Mohaayed had looked a lively contender for the Swinton after the latter, but he missed the race in favour of an almost pointless match race at Market Rasen in May - though the race served Mohaayed's connections well in that they picked up £5,000 in prize money and crucially protected their horse's handicap mark. Mohaayed hasn't shown all he can as a hurdler and is very interesting for this race.
With Defi du Sueil ruled out on Tuesday afternoon, the current ante-post market leader is on-time Supreme fancy Jenkins, who has been given a BHA mark of 137. Though that may seem a shade harsh on the balance of his three hurdling starts to date, his five-length win at Newbury has worked out very well (Bags Groove, Captain Forez and Pingshou have all franked the form since). Jenkins was a smart bumper horse, too, making his mark look all the more attractive, and other than the fact his first season over hurdles ended in something of a whimper (beaten at odds-on at Kempton on Boxing Day, and ended the season by winning a Ffos Las novice in workmanlike fashion) it's easy to see why he is popular, though it's hard to argue he should be a whole lot shorter than 5/1 at this stage.
Even without Defi du Seuil, J.P. McManus has a number of other interesting contenders, including County Hurdle sixth Ivanovich Gorbatov for man-of-the-moment Joseph O'Brien. He was gambled on when making his handicap debut in that race and could feature here, though he is 1 lb higher in the weights and didn't have any obvious excuses that day. O'Brien also has Galway Hurdle winner Tigris River entered, and with only five starts over jumps for the yard, he is a potential improver.
The likes of London Prize and Flying Tiger come out well on ratings after their runs in the Elite at Wincanton on the weekend, but it seems unlikely that they will turn out just eight days later. Also facing a fairly quick turnaround is Elgin, who impressed with his turn of foot when winning a listed hurdle at Ascot at the beginning of the month. He is up 5 lb in the weights for that win but may well have a bigger effort in his locker, while Old Guard is only 4 lb above the mark he defied in this race in 2015 and is another contender having shown his well-being by winning a listed race at Kempton in October.
As should be the case this year's Greatwood is shaping up to be another deep and fascinating renewal with a number in with strong chances, but there are plenty of reasons to think that Mohaayed will go off a fair bit shorter than 12/1 come Sunday and he looks the bet at this stage.