Surrey Quest out to enhance reputation at Warwick

Horse Racing

Progressive Henderson five-year-old impressed in Doncaster victory.

Surrey Quest takes a big leap from novice class to Grade Two company as he seeks to take his perfect record over timber to three in the Ballymore Leamington Novices’ Hurdle at Warwick on Saturday.

The lightly-raced five-year-old, trained by Nicky Henderson and owned by Surrey Racing, followed up his first success at Leicester in November with a display full of promise at Doncaster last month, despite still showing signs of greenness.

Connections are quite bullish about his chances – but are fully aware of the task he faces at such an early stage of his career.

“It’s a massive step up in class so it’s hard to know what to expect of him. I know he’s been backed – I’m not entirely sure why – but it looks to me as there are quite a few unexposed types all with a chance,” said Clive Hadingham, co-founder of Surrey Racing with Steve Grubb.

“For someone who hasn’t proved himself he’s short enough, but I think he deserves to take his place in the race. He came out of his last race really well and he’s bouncing away on the gallops.

“It doesn’t look the strongest of Grade Twos really and we go there with confidence.

“I think there’s four or five that could win it and we’re one of them. That last race he won at Doncaster was a pretty good race.

“He was babyish at Doncaster and he will need to come on quite a bit to win this one, which is not beyond the realms of possibility. We’re excited about it.”

Evan Williams is taking a punt stepping Howdyalikemenow in class after the six-year-old won his third race of the campaign at Ffos Las earlier this month.

“He’s got a bit to find at the weights. He’s entered in the Betfair Hurdle and I was going to wait for that, but he’s had a fantastic season and I just thought ‘let’s step him up in trip and in grade and see how we get on’,” said the Llancarfan trainer.

“I should probably be running him in a handicap, but the reality is he’s gone and won a handicap. It will be interesting to see how he gets on and if he stays. We thought the horse deserved to take his chance.”

Stuart Edmunds thinks similarly about Gentleman At Arms, who opened his account over hurdles in a novice event at Huntingdon last month.

That was the five-year-old’s second run for Edmunds since he was bought out of Harry Dunlop’s stable for 40,000 guineas at Tattersalls Autumn Horses-In-Training Sales.

“We’re very happy with him. He won well the last day in similar conditions. I just hope I haven’t put him in a bit deep,” said the Newport Pagnell trainer.

“We like him. He was a reasonable Flat horse so we’re going to give it a go.”

A competitive Grade Two contest features Party Business, who fell at the penultimate flight in the Grade One Challow Hurdle at Newbury when in second place behind eventual winner Stage Star. Ian Williams’ six-year-old bids for handsome consolation.

Archie Watson steps Stag Horn, a smart stayer on the Flat, up to Grade Two company after making a successful debut over hurdles at Hereford.

Dan Skelton, who has won the race twice with Three Musketeers in 2015 and Beakstown in 2019, saddles Viva Lavilla. The six-year-old got off the mark over hurdles first time at Lingfield in November and was second in the Grade Two Ballymore Winter Novices’ Hurdle on his only subsequent start.

The seven-runner field is completed by Scipion, whose trainer Tom Lacey saddled Adrimel to take this prize 12 months ago.

Follow us on Twitter racing365dotcom and like our Facebook page.