Bertimont on course for StanJames.com International Hurdle

Trainer Dan Skelton is hoping Bertimont can put it up to The New One (Nigel Twiston-Davies) in the £130,000 Grade Two StanJames.com International Hurdle (3.10pm) at Cheltenham on Saturday, December 13.

Bertimont has taken his form to a new level since joining Skelton from Irish handler James Lambe over the summer, starting with a 16-length victory over Dawalan in a valuable handicap hurdle at Chepstow on October 11.

The four-year-old proved himself up in class when beaten four lengths into second by Purple Bay in the Grade Two Elite Hurdle over two miles at Wincanton on November 8.

Skelton reported: “The intention is for Bertimont to run at Cheltenham on Saturday.

“His preparation has gone very smoothly since Wincanton and Cheltenham has always been the aim.

“We have obviously got to take on The New One in his backyard, but it is a £130,000 race and we are going to give it a go. He is a horse with a lot of speed, who jumps slickly, and I think he is worth his place in the line-up.

“I came away from Chepstow thinking that we have a good horse and I was delighted with his run in the Elite because it showed he can compete at that level.

“It can be tough for four-year-olds in their middle year but he is a wise horse and doesn’t let himself down. He is in very good form and I can’t fault him.

“It is probably going to be the best ground he has encountered – I don’t know if that is a positive or a negative – and we will know more after the event.”

Bertimont is a 12/1 shot with the sponsor, while The New One is the 4/9 market leader.

The New One is bidding to become the first multiple winner of the StanJames.com International Hurdle since Relkeel (1997, 1998, 1999), having defeated Zarkandar by six lengths last year.

The six-year-old was an unlucky third in the Stan James Champion Hurdle in March and has cemented his claims for next year’s renewal with a pair of authoritative victories this season.

He opened his account in a two-mile Listed event at Kempton Park on October 19 and doubled up in style when recording a two and three-quarter length verdict over Zamdy Man (Venetia Williams) in the inaugural Betfair Price Rush Hurdle at Haydock Park on November 22.

Also among the entries for the StanJames.com International is Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle third Vaniteux, who was second to Garde La Victoire on his reappearance when top-weight in the StanJames.com Greatwood Hurdle at The Open.

His trainer Nicky Henderson has also entered impressive Ascot handicap scorer Sign Of A Victory, while Irish-trained King Of The Picts (J P Shanahan) was second in last year’s Grade One Royal Bond Novice Hurdle.

Completing the entries are Mad Moose (Nigel Twiston-Davies) and Olofi (Tom George), plus the Lawney Hill-trained pair of Billy Twyford and Mighty Mambo.

Rory Jiwani of StanJames.com said: “The New One puts his StanJames Champion Hurdle credentials on the line this Saturday in the race he won 12 months ago. His biggest threat to a repeat triumph comes from Nicky Henderson who has entered both StanJames.com Greatwood runner-up Vaniteux and Sign Of A Victory, although the latter looks set for Ascot next weekend.

“Bertimont was second to Purple Bay in the StanJames.com Elite Hurdle and Dan Skelton’s charge should enjoy the quick ground at Cheltenham, with Venetia Williams’ Zamdy Man the last of the genuine contenders.

“The New One is 4/9 to win this Saturday at Cheltenham with Vaniteux a 5/2 shot. Nigel Twiston-Davies’ star is 3/1 for the Stan James Champion Hurdle in March behind 2/1 favourite Faugheen, with defending champion Jezki a 6/1 chance.”

StanJames.com International Hurdle – Stan James bet:
4/9 The New One, 5/2 Vaniteux, 6/1 Sign Of A Victory, 12/1 Bertimont, Zamdy Man 40/1 Olofi 66/1 Billy Twyford 100/1 King Of The Picts, Mad Moose 500/1 Mighty Mambo
Each way 1/4 odds 1-2

Day two of The International also features the £40,000 Grade Two Osborne House Relkeel Hurdle (3.45pm) over an extended two and a half miles, which has 12 entries including the 2012 Stan James Champion Hurdle winner Rock On Ruby (Harry Fry), who was beaten a head by The New One at Aintree in April.

Garde La Victoire (Philip Hobbs) may step back up in distance following a game victory in the Grade Three StanJames.com Greatwood Hurdle at The Open, while Melodic Rendezvous (Jeremy Scott), successful in the Grade Two StanJames.com Champion Hurdle Trial at Haydock Park in January, could also return to a longer trip.

Lac Fontana (Paul Nicholls) captured the Grade Three Vincent O’Brien County Handicap Hurdle at The Festival before scoring at Group One level in the Pertemps Network Mersey Novices’ Hurdle at Aintree the following month.

Volnay De Thaix (Nicky Henderson) was fifth behind Lac Fontana at Aintree, while other contenders include the 2013 StanJames.com Greatwood Hurdle winner Dell’ Arca (David Pipe) and course and distance scorer Brother Brian (Hughie Morrison) plus King Of The Picts and Mad Moose.

Blaklion (Nigel Twiston-Davies) and Port Melon (Paul Nicholls) may re-oppose in the £30,000 Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle (2.35pm), having finished second and third in the Grade Two Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle at The Open last month. A total of 11 entries for the three-mile contest also includes Out Sam (Nicky Henderson), who made a winning debut over hurdles at Newbury last month.

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