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Last Updated: 10/05/13 1:40pm
Court Minstrel: Made way for Barizan
Evan Williams' decision to take top-weight Court Minstrel out of the Pertemps Network Handicap Hurdle at Haydock on Saturday paid off as his other entry Barizan just made the cut for the Merseyside feature.
The Llancarfan trainer had aimed the seven-year-old at this valuable contest, registered as the Swinton Handicap Hurdle, since he finished fourth in the Imperial Cup at Sandown in March.
Barizan has slipped down the ratings and will run off a 12lb lower mark than he was sixth in this race two years ago.
"He's run very well in this race before and, make no mistake, he is well treated on his best form, but whether he is as good as he was is debatable," said Williams.
"He's had a wind operation since his last run as we thought it might benefit him. Court Minstrel doesn't run for two reasons - one: he had top weight and two: I wanted Barizan to run. He will go out on his summer break now."
The weights have gone up 3lb due to Court Minstrel's absence, leaving Starluck to head the handicap.
Because of that, as well as the assessor having raised him 6lb after a narrow success at Cheltenham four weeks ago, trainer David Arbuthnot has booked 5lb claiming amateur Nico de Boinville for the ride.
"He's got top weight now which is why we're taking the 5lb off," said Arbuthnot. "He's been put up 6lb for winning a nose last time when Tom (Cannon) claimed 3lb, so effectively he's 9lb higher.
"He seems to be in good form. He's a bit older now, but last year he ran off 150 when top weight in the County Hurdle. I'm hopeful and the ground should be fine for him."
Turn Over Sivola was bumped up 11lb by the handicapper for winning at Wincanton a month ago. His trainer Alan King is praying the ground is suitable for the six-year-old.
"Good ground is the key to Turn Over Sivola, and the first time he got his conditions at Wincanton last month he bolted by by six lengths," the Barbury Castle handler told www.alankingracing.co.uk.
"The handicapper hiked him up 11lb for that, but he is an improving type and we hope that he will be competitive."
John Ferguson wants the rain to stay away for Cry Of Freedom, who responded to a first-time visor when successful at Taunton recently.
"He had the visor on for the first time at Taunton and obviously we hope it has the same effect," said the Newmarket handler.
"The one thing about him is that he is ground dependent and the quicker the ground, the better he'll run.
"We've got to pray for the rain to stay away."
Tom George also feels the better ground will help Baby Mix, who failed to show his best form in testing conditions last season.
"He was struggling on the soft ground during the winter so we gave him a nice, long break to wait for better ground," said the Slad trainer.
" If he can show his best form he must have a chance. It would be nice for him to be competitive again, which he hasn't for a couple of races.
"He'll enjoy the better ground and after that he'll probably go novice chasing."
Silk Hall carries the hopes of Northern Ireland trainer Jimmy Lambe after being aimed at this race following his run in the Scottish Champion Hurdle in which he was third to Court Minstrel.
"I've just kept him ticking over and he's had a couple of strong canters. After his run at Ayr I thought this would be a race for him to be very competitive in," said the County Tyrone handler.
"I think he maybe wants a little bit further now. On his run in the Scottish Champion Hurdle the two miles was a little bit too short for him.
"I hope they go a good gallop as he came home very well in Ayr.
"If that race had a furlong further it might have been different. He's nicely weighted to run a good race in the Swinton."
Nicky Henderson is hoping the ground will be quick enough for his two runners Forgotten Voice and Cape Express.
Forgotten Voice chased home stablemate My Tent Or Yours at a respectable distance at Aintree five weeks ago.
Cape Express has been waiting for better conditions since being down the field behind Raya Star at Ascot in November.
He carries the colours of owner Alan Spencer worn by Eradicate, who won this race for the Henderson team in 2010 and 2011.
"I hope it doesn't rain. It's absolutely vital Forgotten Voice has decent ground. By watering Aintree as they did they ruined his chance and I hope they haven't ruined it at Haydock," said the Seven Barrows trainer.
"Cape Express is a summer horse as well. We've kept them ready to run in races like this."
Street Entertainer was last seen taking fifth place in the race Raya Star won at Ascot in November.
Since then, David Pipe has kept the six-year-old under wraps until the spring and is now hoping dry conditions on Merseyside last ahead of the race.
"He ran a decent race at Ascot last time. We gave him a break and he wants better ground and hopefully the rain keeps away," said the Nicholashayne handler.
"He's in good order but it's obviously a very competitive race. There's been a lot of people waiting to run their horses in this race."