McCain team hoping to build on milestone century of wins

Trainer Donald McCain has insisted that his team will not be resting on their laurels after becoming the first yard to hit 100 winners in the country on Tuesday, as he bids to win Haydock Park’s Grade Two The New One Unibet Hurdle for the second year running this Saturday. 

Saturday’s seven race card features four Graded contests, with the Merseyside track offering a record amount of prize money for that specific fixture – up to £294,000 from £250,000 in 2020.

The line-up includes the Grade Two The New One Unibet Hurdle over two miles, which is a key indicator for the Unibet Champion Hurdle at The Festival™ at Cheltenham and was won last year by Navajo Pass, who will bid to retain his crown for McCain.

The six year old took the notable scalp of the two-time champion hurdler Buveur D’Air when prevailing 12 months ago and while he has failed to hit those heights in two starts so far this season, his trainer is hopeful he can get back on track on his return to Haydock Park.

McCain said: “Navajo Pass is good. Things haven’t quite worked out for him so far this season but he has come back from Sandown fresh and we are hoping he can go and kick on. We’ll see how we get on. 

“He is not going there in the same form as last year, but we have just got to get him back on track and the signs at home are positive, so fingers crossed. He’s worked well this morning and we’re looking forward to seeing how we get on.”

McCain looks set to have a small but select team for Haydock Park on Saturday and his runners also include the promising Richmond Lake, who has won two of his three starts over hurdles so far and will take his chance in the Grade Two Sky Bet Supreme Trial Rossington Main Novices' Hurdle, also over two miles. 

The six year old, who runs in the colours of the late Trevor Hemmings, will make a notable step up in class here after running away with a novices’ hurdle over 2m 4f at Sedgefield on Boxing Day. 

McCain said: “Richmond Lake has surprised us a little bit this year and obviously this is a big step up in grade, but he’s done nothing wrong and there’s not that many places to go with him. He’ll go on the ground and he deserves to take his chance. 

“He was probably a slightly unlucky loser at Aintree when he got lost in no man’s land a little bit. We never quite thought we’d be running in Graded races at the start of the season, but it’s Haydock Park and if Mr Hemmings was still around we would be definitely be going, so we will go and take them on and see.”

The Grade Two contest regularly provides strong pointers for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival and the entries include the hugely exciting Jonbon for the Nicky Henderson team, who is a full brother to Douvan and has won each of his three starts under Rules so far. 

However, McCain insists that he holds no fears in taking on the six year old at the weekend and added: “I knew enough about the horse before he was bought and I feel a little bit sorry for Jonbon to be honest, because he’s got this big price tag and this big reputation but he’s done everything he has been asked to do so far. 

“This is horseracing though and we’ll see, I’m sure he’s expected to win and it’s highly likely he will win, so he’s an exciting horse.”

The McCain team became the first to hit the 100 winner mark for the jumps season courtesy of Cenotice’s victory at Newcastle yesterday (Tuesday) afternoon and when asked to reflect on the achievement, he commented: “It was nice to hit 100 winners yesterday. It was never a big masterplan really and everyone is just working really hard and keeping their heads down. 

“It’s producing the goods and it’s just nice. We were hoping we could sneak there at some point in the season and to be the first to do it in the country is great – but we won’t be getting carried away!”