Verdana out to defy big weight in Greatwood Hurdle

Jeremiah McGrath riding Verdana Blue (red cap) clear the last to win the Unibet Elite Hurdle at Wincanton
Image: Jeremiah McGrath riding Verdana Blue (red cap) clear the last to win the Unibet Elite Hurdle at Wincanton

Nicky Henderson will bid to strike while the iron is hot with Verdana Blue in Sunday's Unibet Greatwood Hurdle at Cheltenham.

An impressive winner at Wincanton in the Elite Hurdle last Saturday, the mare is back out again quickly under a 5lb penalty.

With Jerry McGrath once again in the plate, Henderson has decided to let her take her chance quickly while the good ground she so adores remains.

"She carries a 5lb penalty for winning the Elite Hurdle. She won the Elite Hurdle really well and likes good ground," said Henderson.

"She is ground dependent. When the winter comes we might go back and have a couple of runs on the Flat. When the ground is good you have to keep going, as it won't last forever."

For McGrath it was his welcome turn in the spotlight, and Nico de Boinville's continued absence means he keeps the ride.

"She's incredible, she had fitness on her side but it was nice to win a big one on her. On good ground she's got lots of gears and she showed all them at Wincanton," he said.

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Henderson also runs Charlie Parcs, the mount of Barry Geraghty.

Henderson said: "Charli Parcs is in good form and we've always thought he is quite good. He has been doing some funny things, but he did run in the Champion Hurdle last season.

"He is coming in fresh and well and is working very well, which he always does.

"He is a good horse in his own right. It is the sort of race he could be competitive in."

One who has been well-backed this week has been Warren Greatrex's Western Ryder, a smart novice last season.

"It's obviously his first run in a handicap, but I'd like to think 145 is fair for what he's done," Greatrex told At The Races.

"As I've stated before, last year I think just didn't pan out for him but he's in great form.

"He went away for a gallop last week. He worked on Wednesday and Dicky (Richard Johnson) schooled him on Tuesday. Touch wood, everything has gone according to plan and he's got good form round Cheltenham.

"We'll learn a lot more on Sunday, but I'd like to think he's in there off a nice mark."

Nube Negra was third in the Fred Winter at the Festival for Dan and Harry Skelton, and has had a wind operation over the summer.

"It can be hard for the four-year-olds in their second season, but we couldn't be happier with him," said Harry Skelton.

"Hopefully he's strengthened up well over the summer and we're really happy with him.

"He ran a good race in the Fred Winter when I was probably a bit too handy and got there a bit soon, I'll ride him for a bit more luck on Sunday and take my time."

Caius Marcius represents Nicky Richards and after winning two nice pots finished third at Ascot in a hot race last time out.

"He ran three times over fences in the summer time and then we just thought we might switch back to hurdling and he's done brilliant, he's won twice and ran a good race back down at Ascot a fortnight ago," said Richards.

"He's ground dependent and it still seems to be in his favour so I don't see why he shouldn't run another good race and he'll enjoy coming up that hill. He'll probably get a winter break after Sunday."

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