Murphy, Hobbs, Skelton and Pipe assess their chances at Haydock

Haydock Park stages the only mixed card of the year in the UK tomorrow (Saturday 8th May) when the highlight is the Grade Three Pertemps Network Swinton Handicap Hurdle. First run in 1978, the £100,000 contest takes place over two miles and its roll of honour boasts the likes of Cheltenham Festival winners Gaye Chance and Winnie The Witch as well as subsequent Grade One scorers Macs Joy and Intersky Falcon.

Heading the market at around the 5-1 mark is Copperless. The lightly-raced six year old made won at Taunton in March and appeared to still hold every chance when falling two out in the Pinsent Masons Handicap Hurdle at Aintree’s Randox Grand National Festival last month – a race which went on to be won by the re-opposing Rowland Ward.

Trainer Olly Murphy reported: “I’m very nervous about the weather. If it goes soft I would be very nervous but if it doesn’t he is the one they have all got to beat.

“I think he was just going too well at Aintree and until his fall the young lad (conditional jockey Lewis Stones) had given him a lovely ride. He seems to be fine after that. He is still relatively inexperienced but he is a lovely horse. A race like this will suit him 100 per cent but we just don’t want the rain to come and turn it soft.”

Philip Hobbs has twice won the contest previously with Dreams End (1994) and War Sound (2015). This year the Somerset handler relies on the J P McManus-owned CamprondAnother lightly raced performer, the five year old scored at Taunton in March before going on to take second in the Pinsent Masons Handicap Hurdle at Aintree.

Hobbs said: “I hope the ground does not go to soft and that would be the main worry but there is a large amount of rain forecast. He ran a good race at Aintree and if he repeats that he will be competitive.

“He is progressive and going the right way so we are very much hoping for another good run. This race was always a possibility after Aintree but usually it is run on decent ground.

“All of his form appears to be quite decent so we hope it all works out. He has been great since Aintree.”

Dan Skelton saddles Defining Battle. A dual winner on the Flat in Ireland for Mick Halford, the five year old has yet to win in three starts over hurdles but shaped well on his three outings last season, most recently finishing a close third at Ayr in April.

Skelton said: “I’m very happy with him. I’m a little bit disappointed he didn’t win at Ayr. I think it turned a little tactical for us and he didn’t jump all that well which was a little frustrating. He is in good form and he has got a nice low weight so let’s go and have a go at a nice prize.”

Nordic Combined represents David Pipe. The seven year makes a quick reappearance after scoring at Hexham on May 1st.

Pipe said: “Nordic Combined is a bit quirky but he did it well at Hexham the other day and he seems in very good form. It is a tough ask of his mark but he deserves to take his chance in a race like the Swinton. There is a good field but it is a big pot so it’s worth a go.

“He probably does need everything to go right for him but at the same time he is a fun horse. He has been running well of late and he was a good second at the track recently. He has run well in the visor but whether that makes much of a difference I’m not sure.

“If he finishes in the money we will be pleased. Before his recent runs soft ground was what he was running on so he won’t worry whatever the ground is.”

The first four contests on tomorrow’s card at Haydock Park are Jump contests with the final four being Flat races. The Flat contests include the Listed Pertemps Network Spring Trophy while Brando, a Group One winner in France in 2017 and runner-up in the 2018 renewal of the Group One Sprint Cup at Haydock Park, makes his second start of 2021 in the Pertemps Network Conditions Stakes over six furlongs. The nine year old shaped well on his seasonal reappearance when third in the Listed Cammidge Trophy at Doncaster in March.

Trainer Kevin Ryan said: “He’s been there and done it now and he’s in good order after Doncaster. With the soft ground around at the moment we want to run at Haydock.

“He’s also in the Duke of York Stakes next week and we’ll make a decision about York after Haydock.”


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