Western Ryder, a “real fighter who loves a scrap”, according to his trainer Warren Greatrex, is likely to need those qualities in abundance when he steps up in class in the 32Red Tolworth Novices’ Hurdle at Sandown on Saturday.
Underfoot conditions at the track are already extremely testing and, with the forecast of further rain this week, clerk of the course Andrew Cooper anticipates “wet, heavy ground” this weekend.
One of 11 entries unveiled on Tuesday for the Grade 1 over two miles, Western Ryder, generally second favourite at a best-priced 7-2, has already proved his effectiveness in the mud by winning on heavy ground at Chepstow in November.
“He's won on heavy and on soft,” said Greatrex. “He stays very well, so that’s also in his favour on Saturday. Heavy ground over two miles is going to provide a real test, and it should suit him.
“He isn’t a flashy horse but gets the job done. He’s a real fighter and loves a scrap. We’ve always held him in high regard and, fingers crossed, he’ll go there in tip-top shape.”
Nicky Henderson is responsible for three of the entries, including the likely favourite Claimantakinforgan – generally 6-4 on the first show of prices – who has also proved his ability to deal with bottomless conditions by winning a Haydock heavy-ground bumper on his first start for the champion trainer in November 2016.
He ran out the smooth winner of an Ascot Grade 2 on his most recent appearance and looks an exciting prospect.
Cooper describes the ground as a “mixture of heavy and soft”, with the official descriptions being soft, heavy in places for the chase course, and heavy, soft in places on the hurdles track.
“We haven’t been getting real deluges but it has rained most days recently,” Cooper said.
“There's more rain to come but the quantities are uncertain. It gets drier and colder towards the end of the week.
“The ground isn’t going to dry out to any degree, but we think we’ll be fine. It will be wet, heavy ground come Saturday.”