Dubai pointing the way for Whittington at Sandown

Harry Whittington

Harry Whittington is hoping the step up in trip can help bring out more improvement from The Dubai Way as the six-year-old looks to continue his unbeaten run in today's EBF Matchbook VIP 'National Hunt' Novices' Hurdle at Sandown.

The Dubai Way has won all his three races over hurdles so far, all around two miles and in lesser company, but he gives Whittington the impression there is more to come and his latest success at Warwick, where he made light work of 12st 7lb, suggests he is on the upgrade.

"We're really happy with him. He couldn't be in better form at home," said the Wantage handler.

"This has been the plan for most of the season. He's going to need to improve on what he has done so far, but he came out of his last race well. He carried a lot of weight there and now he's carrying a nice weight, so hopefully he'll think he's loose.

"It's going to be tough, but we hope he's well handicapped for going up in trip.

"His bare form is not good enough, but he is unbeaten and has done it all quite nicely.

"We've been happy with his campaign and hope he's got a bit in hand."

Harry Fry won this race with Minella Awards 12 months ago and is looking to Melrose Bay to give him back-to-back victories.

"He's in good form and it would be great if he could follow in the footsteps of Minella Awards last year," he said.

"He ran a good race to finish third here a month ago and I don't think coming back in trip should bother him too much.

"He'll like the ground and we're hoping he'll run well."

Notre Ami is a course winner, albeit over a shorter distance and in an average four-horse affair, but trainer Nick Gifford feels his runner should not be underestimated.

"He's in great form and he's a course-and-distance winner. Ideally, we'd have wanted better ground. He's won on heavy round there, but he does want better ground," said the Findon handler.

"The trip should be fine. We view him as a future staying chaser so two and a half round there should be absolutely fine for him. It was two miles last time, but it wasn't that competitive.

"This is a massive step up on what he's done, but he deserves to take his chance and he's got a fighting weight. All the boxes are ticked other than the ground. At least we're proven in it, though we'd want it better.

"He goes there with an each-way chance, we hope."

Alan King is hoping conditions do not get too testing for Canelo, who warmed up for this good prize with victory at Doncaster last month.

"He got the job done well at Doncaster last time and he is not going to get many chances at a £75,000 race," said the Barbury Castle handler. "I hope it doesn't get bottomless.

"I was pleased with his work on Wednesday and that was the first bit he has done since Doncaster."

Anthony Honeyball will rely solely on Urca De Lima in the EBF Stallions/TBA Mares' Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race after an unsatisfactory blood test ruled out Duhallow Gesture.

Urca De Lima showed plenty of promise when making a winning debut at Uttoxeter last April, but has been off the track since.

"She will definitely handle the ground well. It would be a good thing for her," he said.

"She won her bumper quite nicely at Uttoxeter last season. We gave her an easy spell after that and the plan was to run her in a Listed bumper at Cheltenham, but she had a setback. We think she's ready."

Queens Cave had no trouble landing the odds on her debut under Rules at Uttoxeter 10 weeks ago, but trainer David Pipe knows this will be a much stiffer test.

"She won nicely at Uttoxeter and we're happy with her at home," said the Nicholashayne handler.

"I don't think ground conditions or the track will bother her, but obviously this is a big step up."