Rock On Ruby heads for Aintree on the back of a stunning success in the Champion Hurdle. One cannot help but be impressed by the comprehensive nature of his victory from Overturn and the reigning champion Hurricane Fly.
He has now won two from three races this season and will probably start favourite for this race due to his last-time-out performance. The negative with Rock On Ruby has to be that he flopped over this course and distance last year after running well at the Cheltenham Festival.
Paul Nicholls believes that he should be all right this season because he is a stronger horse; this may well be the case, but the fact remains that he has run disappointingly in his only race at the course and he is competing with at least three horses with high-class course form to their name.
Zarkandar met defeat for the first time in the Champion Hurdle after which Paul Nichiolls stated: “I was disappointed when I saw Zarkandar in the paddock. He looked a bit shelly and a bit light. I fear the Betfair Hurdle left its mark. We will put him away for next year.”
He should be suited by this step up in trip and won at this meeting last year; but the trainer’s thoughts after the Champion Hurdle are concerning enough to look elsewhere for a potential bet in this race.
Overturn has run only once over this trip over hurdles when winning the Ascot Hurdle in November. He was left clear when Oscar Whisky fell at the last on that occasion and, if his rival had stood up, there probably would have been nothing between them at the line. Overturn was in receipt of eight pounds and was almost certainly the fitter of the two horses on the day.
Oscar Whisky won this race last year and I would be reasonably confident of him finishing in front of Overturn in the Aintree Hurdle. He clearly failed to get up the hill in the Ladbrokes World Hurdle last time out and should be much more at home over this trip.