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Cheltenham Festival: Milton Harris hoping Silver Shade can sneak into Boodles field as Knight Salute heads for Triumph

Silver Shade is 33/1 for the Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival after Fontwell victory; Knight Salute set to run in Triumph Hurdle while Mullenbeg likely to bypass Cheltenham Bumper

Silver Shade ridden by Kevin Jones goes on to win the Play Coral 'Racing-Super-Series' For Free Juvenile Hurdle
Image: Silver Shade has won two of his three starts over hurdles for Milton Harris

Milton Harris is still hoping Silver Shade will sneak into the Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle at Cheltenham next week, as he believes him to be "very well handicapped" and "a player".

The Warminster handler is concerned his recent Fontwell success may not see him rated highly enough to get into what will be a compressed handicap for the extended two-mile race, commonly known as the Fred Winter.

"I love Silver Shade and I think he is very well handicapped," said Harris.

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"But I would say he won't get in the Boodles. If he gets in, he is a player. But I don't know - the weights are going to go up at the top.

"I suspect we will end up with 10st 8lb or 10st 9lb and we won't get in. I would be delighted if he did. I think he'd be a player - I don't see him being rated a 120 horse."

Currently a 33/1 shot for the Boodles, should he not get in, Harris will redirect him for what he hopes will be a prep race for Aintree on Monday week.

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Trainer Milton Harris is enjoying his best-ever season after returning to the game following a seven-year enforced absence due to bankruptcy.

Harris said: "I need to speak to the owner. There is a juvenile at Stratford on the Monday and that is often very competitive race, as the Irish sometimes bring one over.

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"He will have an entry for that, but I might just go and try and win a novice with a penalty with the four-year-old allowance.

"Then I'm hoping he makes up into an Aintree juvenile, as once you get into the 130s, he might just be amongst that crowd."

Harris to go easy on Triumph hope Knight Salute

Knight Salute (left) ridden by jockey Paddy Brennan on their way to winning the Coral Adonis Juvenile Hurdle at Kempton Park racecourse. Picture date: Saturday February 26, 2022.
Image: Knight Salute (left) on his way to winning the Adonis Juvenile Hurdle at Kempton

Harris confirmed that unbeaten hurdler Knight Salute will head to the Triumph Hurdle.

As one of Britain's leading hopes in the market at 12/1 behind Vauban, Pied Piper and Fil Dor, Knight Salute won a Grade Two at Cheltenham in November and followed up by taking the Adonis Hurdle in great style at Kempton.

"Knight salute is going to the Triumph, as definite as definite can be at this stage," said Harris. "The clear plan is to go for the Triumph, I don't see there is any benefit in carrying top-weight in the Boodles.

"I would love to say he has sparkled. The Tuesday before he went to Kempton and won last time, he actually did work well, but he is not a good workhorse.

"He is unbeaten in five and won three Grade Twos and they all keep telling me he can't win. We haven't met any of the Irish horses yet and if they are as good as they say they are, then we could finish fourth and still run a blinder.

"He will do very little between now and next week. We will probably work him this Saturday. He won't do a lot, he doesn't need to, he is a very professional horse and we just need to stay sound and healthy."

Sandown option for Mullenbeg

Mullenbeg ridden by Mitchell Bastyan wins at Cheltenham
Image: Jockey Mitchell Bastyan celebrates as Mullenbeg crosses the Cheltenham winning line in front

Meanwhile, Harris could bypass Cheltenham with Mullenbeg, who is one of the leading British hopes for the Weatherbys Champion Bumper.

The mare is unbeaten in two starts since arriving from Ireland in December, including a fine effort when landing a Listed Cheltenham mares' bumper in January.

However, Harris, who has 43 winners in his fourth season since returning to the training ranks, is pondering the possibility of running her in the Listed EBF Mares' Bumper Final at Sandown on Saturday.

"Mullenbeg may go to Sandown on Saturday," he added. "She is going to be favourite for the mares' at Sandown and 14/1 or 16/1 against the boys at Cheltenham.

"My thought process, subject to owners' approval, is to go to Sandown then go to Aintree with her. We will make a decision on Monday, once we have seen the entries and discussed it.

"She is lovely. She has a turn of foot, which you don't often see with some three-mile Irish pointers."

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Expert racing pundit Kevin Blake joins Matt Chapman and Sean Boyce to discuss the seeming inevitability of a five-day Cheltenham Festival, as well as the highly-contentious handicap marks for Irish horses.

Harris will likely rely on Rosy Redrum in the Champion Bumper.

She won convincingly at Wincanton before staying on nicely, having been given plenty to do, to grab second spot in a hot Newbury bumper last time.

"Rosy Redrum definitely runs," said Harris. "She is a lovely big filly, but nothing went right for her last time.

"Rosy gets all the allowances - 17lb - which is why she will go to Cheltenham. I've always thought she is Listed class on the Flat, but whether she is good enough to beat the Irish horses, I don't know. Those allowances will help her, though.

"In two weeks' time, we'll all be going, 'Who'd have thought it?' - but it will either all have gone well or all have gone badly! We're looking forward to it."

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