Thyme Hill out to lay claim to title of Britain's best novice hurdler

Ballymore Novices' Hurdle (Grade 2) | 2m5f Old | ITV4/RTV

Phillip Hobbs reckons Thyme Hill is his best novice hurdle prospect – a more arrogant man might suggest he could be Britain's best.

The five-year-old was the home finisher when third behind Envoi Allen in the Champion Bumper at Cheltenham in March.

And there was a lot to like in the way he landed last month's Persian War Novices' Hurdle at Chepstow, staying on strongly to win decisively.

The previous hurdling debutant to win that Grade 2 event for Hobbs was Fingal Bay, who followed up in this event before winning at the Cheltenham Festival, and the trainer is looking forward to running Thyme Hill in a race salvaged from Friday's cancelled card.

"It's always good when they manage to save races like this one," said Hobbs, who has also landed this 2m5f contest with Massini's Maguire and Tidal Force.

"He jumped particularly well at Chepstow and doesn't appear to have too much to learn in that department. He coped with soft ground there, so we hope he manages the ground here and he's good to go."

However, Jamie Snowden is not frightened of taking on Thyme Hill again with Persian War third Some Day Soon. A 5lb pull for just over four lengths gives the six-year-old a strong theoretical chance if he handles the going, although that is a big 'if'.

Snowden said: "He has been a star for us this autumn, winning four in a row, and he progressed to run a good race with the step up in class in the Persian War, seeing out the longer trip nicely. He's stepping up further in trip for this and his pedigree suggests it will suit him again, but the ground is a bit of an unknown."   

Champagne Well won over the course and distance last month, when he had L'Air Du Vent in third, and Fergal O'Brien believes Paddy Brennan's mount will be seen to even better advantage in this stronger race.

He said: "Paddy had to force it a bit last time and get upsides at the top of the hill, which he didn't really want to do, and he was in front long enough.

"In a better race he can get a tow into it for longer. We are really pleased with him and while he might not ideally want a real slog, I think he's pretty versatile ground wise."

Olly Murphy has no qualms about running Fontwell winner I K Brunel in testing ground and expects a decent effort.

"He's in good form and if the meeting goes ahead he should handle the conditions fine," the trainer said. "He's a horse we've always liked and stepping up in trip won't be a problem. We are really looking forward to him."

But conditions are a concern for Kim Bailey, who is running impressive Stratford winner Happygolucky only because the salvaged race is the first on the card.

"I didn't declare him originally as it was going to be the last race of the day, but now it is the first race he'll get the best of the ground," the trainer said.

"My worry is how he'll handle the ground, but he won very nicely first time and he's a very nice horse."

Ireland is represented by Born By The Sea and Dancing On My Own, who has already been nominated by Henry De Bromhead as his likely hope for the Ballymore Novices' Hurdle in March.