Ayr preview: Scottish Champion Hurdle (14:35)
I Shot The Sheriff is on a serious upward curve and looks weighted to take all the beating in the Scottish Champion Hurdle at Ayr today (14:35).
Trained in Ireland by the ulra-shrewd Tony Martin, the gelding shaped with plenty of promise when runner-up at Navan after 702 days on the sidelines before going one better at Wexford when scoring by seven lengths.
The eight-year-old got put up 7lb for that success, but made a mockery of his handicap mark of 130 when sauntering to victory in an very competitive 18-runner affair at Fairyhouse.
I Shot The Sheriff travelled strongly throughout and, after cruising into the lead four from home, toyed with his rivals before cruising home by 3 3/4 lengths in the hands of Paul Townend.
Jockey Townend barely had to move a muscle, and I Shot The Sheriff won with tons more in hand than the winning margin suggests.
Although now 8lb higher in the weights, the manner of that success suggested I Shot The Sheriff had at least a stone in hand on the assessor and it is unlikely to be enough to stop him completing the hat-trick if turning up in the same form.
Trainer Nicky Henderson has a decent strike-rate with his runners at the track, and his Sign Of A Victory looks a big danger now dropped back into handicap company.
The six-year-old has won three of his seven starts over hurdles, and looked an ultra-smart prospect in the last of those in a Listed handicap hurdle on seasonal reappearance at Ascot on good ground.
Sign Of A Victory travelled ominously well throughout and after being produced to lead at the last cruised home hard on the bridle to beat Dawalan by a cheeky 1/2 a length.
Jockey Barry Geraghty didn’t have to move a muscle, and Dawalan is a useful sort who has gone on to score twice since and is now rated 150.
It was a smart performance as Sign Of A Victory was giving the runner-up 9lb, and one which suggests the son of Kayf Tara is not badly treated off a mark of 147.
Although Sign Of A Victory has been well beaten in finishing fourth in two runs since, they have been on soft ground in Grade 1 and 2 contests, and it would be no surprise to see him bounce back now eased in grade with underfoot conditions to suit.