Friday April 21
This week’s big Ayr meeting is close to Alan’s hearts for so many reasons, not least because of his roots, so if he could plunder the £105,000 Scottish Champion Hurdle for a second time tomorrow, with either Sceau Royal or Winter Escape, it would be the icing on the cake for what has been a terrific season for Barbury.
Reflecting on the season before he looked ahead to Saturday, Alan said:”Obviously, I would have loved another Cheltenham Festival winner, but we’ve won more than £1.34m in prize money and clocked up a 100 winners for the first time since 2009, so I have a lot to be thankful for.
“Maybe it was disappointing that we had only 13 winners over fences last winter, but we have plenty of potentially exciting novice chase prospects for next season, including Midnight Tour, who won so well over hurdles at Cheltenham on Thursday, so there are lots to look forward to.”
However, Alan hopes to notch up a few more winners between now and next Saturday at Sandown, where the curtain comes down on the season, and, assessing his quartet bound for Scotland, he said:”We won the Champion Hurdle up there with Raya Star five years ago, so it would be marvellous if we could pull it off again.
“Sceau Royal lost nothing in defeat in the Champion Hurdle, finishing sixth after travelling beautifully, but he probably doesn’t quite up the hill against that sort of opposition, so, despite co-topweight here, he might find things slightly less competitive.
“He is not the biggest, but he is very quick over his hurdles, and, though we have not schooled him over fences yet, I think he’ll take to them and the plan is to go novice chasing with him next season, too.
“Winter Escape receives a stone from Sceau Royal, and I would like to think he’ll be sharper than he was in the County Hurdle, in which he was only beaten two and a half lengths, having travelled and jumped well.
“After his long absence, Winter Escape was effectively making his seasonal debut at Cheltenham as no matter how much work you do on the gallops there is no substitute for match-practice, so he goes to Scotland fresher than most and hopefully the County will have put him spot on. Both of mine came out Chektenham very well.
“A bit of rain would help the chance of Label des Obeaux in the opening novices handicap chase. He runs here rather than in the Scottish National, and he, too, has come out of Cheltenham well enough to roll the dice again.
“Finally, Gibralfaro runs in the Land O’Burns Handicap Hurdle. He only got as far as the second in the Martin Pipe at Cheltenham, but he has schooled since and seems ok.”