Morebattle favourite has everything Under Control

Connections are keen to chase £100,000 Kelso-Cheltenham bonus.

Under Control can put herself in line for a GBP 100,000 bonus when she heads to Kelso for the bet365 Morebattle Hurdle.

Nicky Henderson’s five-year-old signed off last season by downing stablemate – and subsequent Greatwood and Betfair Hurdle winner – Iberico Lord at Sandown and although misfiring when favourite for the Gerry Feilden in November, she bounced back to form when second to Ashroe Diamond in a Doncaster Grade Two in January.

She holds a plethora of entries for the Cheltenham Festival and has the chance to scoop the sponsor’s six-figure incentive on offer if following up victory in the Scottish Borders at Prestbury Park later this month.

Under Control winning at Sandown last season
Under Control winning at Sandown last season (Steven Paston/PA)

That was something achieved by The Shunter in the very first year this race was run as a handicap and although set to carry a hefty weight burden, Under Control rates as one of the classiest operators in the field.

“She ran a blinder at Doncaster and was beaten by a good mare there,” said owner JP McManus’ racing manager, Frank Berry.

“Nicky has been very happy with her and although she has a lot of weight to carry, we are hoping for a good run. She did well to get back to Doncaster and run well and everything has gone well since.”

On the bonus, he added: “We’ll work it (Cheltenham) out after Saturday, once we’ve seen how she goes. If she doesn’t run well on Saturday, she will have no business going anywhere else.”

Benson provided Sandy Thomson with a popular local victory in this contest 12 months ago and, having advertised his well-being since the turn of the year, is another aiming not just for back-to-back Morebattle triumphs, but to tee-up a second shot at the Cheltenham bonus.

“His last two runs have been really good and two miles at Musselburgh last time would be sharp enough for him,” said Thomson.

“Obviously, he has a lot of weight to carry, but he seems well and he carried that weight at Musselburgh on New Year’s Day, so we will go and give it a shot.

“He was very new to us last season and we know a lot more about him now – and hopefully we have trained him accordingly. Whether we get the same result (as last year), who knows? But we’re very happy with where we have him.”

Plenty of this year’s Morebattle contenders arrive looking to extend a winning run – including the hat-trick-seeking pair of Kerry Lee’s Black Hawk Eagle and Donald McCain’s Geromino.

However, they still have some way to go to match James Moffatt’s Bingoo, who arrives at Kelso unbeaten in three and rapidly climbing the ranks.

“He’s in good order with himself,” said Moffatt. “We’re dropping back in trip a bit, but hopefully there is a very strong gallop up in front, which we should get – I think there’s three or four front-runners in it.

“We’re just going to take our chance and it’s well worth a punt at that sort of prize-money.”

Another in good order is Dr Richard Newland and Jamie Insole’s Rewired, who has followed up some encouraging performances last term by winning both outings this season.

Newland believes now is the time to give his charge a shot at a valuable prize and said: “He’s done really well and certainly seems in a very good place.

“He came out of his race at Taunton well and is in good form and we’re very happy with him.

“He possibly doesn’t want too much rain, but I just thought he deserved a chance at a slightly better race, really. The owners are excited and we are excited to have a go at it.

“I think if you had asked me if we would be going for this off this mark, I wouldn’t have been as confident, but he’s become a very sharp, quick hurdler and that is helping him. Let’s hope there is more to come.”

Skycutter got off the mark for new trainer Dan Skelton at Carlisle last month and will bid to go two places better than the stable’s L’Eau Du Sud did 12 months ago, while Brian Ellison won this with Cormier two years ago and will saddle Scottish Champion Hurdle fifth Salsada, who returns from 315 days off.

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