Horse racing: Ground holds the key to Peddlars next run

Donald McCain will not risk Peddlers Cross in the Victor Chandler Morebattle Hurdle at Kelso on Thursday if the ground is heavy.

The unbeaten six-year-old was forced to miss his intended Champion Hurdle prep when Haydock's Champion Hurdle Trial was abandoned due to frost.

He also held options in recent events at Sandown and Ffos Las but coughed in the days before.

McCain has instead given him options at the Borders track and in Wincanton's Kingwell Hurdle on Saturday, but his participation at the former venue hinges on the ground.

"He's not certain to go to Kelso just yet," said McCain. "I'd like to run but I certainly wouldn't run him in bottomless ground, that certainly wouldn't suit him.

"I might just decide to sit tight, we'll see. He's also in at Wincanton."

Peddlers Cross is as low as 9-2 for the Champion Hurdle on the first day of the Festival.

Meanwhile, Imperial Commander delighted connections in a racecourse gallop at Warwick as part of his preparation for his defence of the totesport Cheltenham Gold Cup.

The 10-year-old worked two miles with two other horses trained by Nigel Twiston-Davies in his first serious work ahead of next month's big race.

"It went really well and he galloped with two of our young ones," the Naunton handler said. "That's his first really serious racecourse gallop. He will then go to Kempton on Racing Post Chase day and have another gallop there.

"That will put him absolutely brilliant, we hope, for the Gold Cup.

"All we have to do is to get him to the races in the same form as last year and then it will take a very good one to beat him.

"He seems in very good form and is back after having that little setback before Christmas which healed.

"He had a long time off last year from the King George to the Gold Cup and got there in one piece. It went really well and I'm sure we can do it again. He's a very straight forward horse.

"This is just one gallop, one more to come and I think he'll be fine."

Twiston-Davies switched the gallop to Warwick after plans to work Imperial Commander at Newbury on Sunday had to be scrapped following Saturday's tragic event.

The horse has not raced since making a successful reappearance in the Betfair Chase at Haydock in November. He is ante-post favourite at around 7-2 to retain his crown on March 18.

Meanwhile, Pride Of Dulcote is among 11 entries for the Betfair Chase at Ascot on Saturday.

Trainer Paul Nicholls indicated the lightly-raced eight-year-old would go to Berkshire after the Hennessy Gold Cup at Leopardstown was delayed by six days because of the weather.

Nicky Henderson has had similar thoughts regarding King George VI Chase runner-up Riverside Theatre and French Opera, who should both have been in action at Newbury at the weekend.

Ferdy Murphy has entered John Smith's Grand National hope Big Fella Thanks, while Tom George has put in Tartak, who is on a hat-trick after wins at Newbury and Cheltenham.

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