Harry Fry has confirmed last year’s Champion Hurdle hero Rock On Ruby is “quite likely to run” in the 32Red Hurdle at Doncaster’s additional fixture on Monday.
Fry had initially hoped to see his charge complete his preparations for the defence of his Cheltenham crown in this weekend’s Betfred Mobile Sports Contenders Hurdle, but effectively ruled him out of the race earlier this week due the extremely testing conditions at Sandown.
The trainer then identified the Kingwell Hurdle at Wincanton on February 16 as the most likely port of call for his stable star, but he has now had a change of heart after the British Horseracing Authority gave the green light to a new Doncaster meeting, featuring the Listed 32Red Hurdle.
Fry said: “We have given him the entry and although I need to speak to the owners and discuss things with them before we finalise anything, I would say at this stage, looking at the forecast and the way the ground is at Doncaster, he is quite likely to run.
“We’ve already said the ground at Sandown this weekend is going to be too testing for him, and it looks like we might lose the Contenders Hurdle anyway.
“We don’t know what the ground is going to be like at Wincanton and the Doncaster race fits in perfectly timing-wise ahead of Cheltenham.
“The BHA must be applauded. It’s a great initiative to get this race on having already lost the Champion Hurdle Trial at Haydock and probably the race at Sandown on Saturday.
“Noel Fehily came in to school the horse this morning and we’re very happy with him.
“He’s ready to run and we’re looking forward to Monday.”
Nicky Henderson’s runaway Christmas Hurdle winner Darlan also has Doncaster as a back-up plan, should the Contenders Hurdle not survive. Officials at Sandown will make a decision on whether all Saturday’s hurdle races will be abandoned following an 8am inspection this morning.
Frank Berry, racing manager for Darlan’s owner JP McManus, said: “I believe Darlan is going to be entered for the Doncaster race.
“I haven’t spoken to Nicky this morning but I believe if Sandown is on, the horse will go to Sandown.
“It’s nice to have the Doncaster race there if we need it.”
Rock On Ruby and Darlan feature among a total of 19 entries for the 32Red Hurdle, with Henderson also giving an entry to another of his Champion Hurdle hopes Grandouet.
John Quinn’s Triumph Hurdle and Fighting Fifth scorer Countrywide Flame adds further strength in depth. He was a beaten favourite behind Darlan in the Christmas Hurdle on his latest appearance.
Champion trainer Paul Nicholls has both Celestial Halo and Brampour in the mix, while Tolworth Hurdle winner and leading novice Melodic Rendezvous is an interesting possible runner for Jeremy Scott.