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Ptit Zig can book Champion Hurdle ticket in Haydock trial

Haydock’s Champion Hurdle Trial has struggled to live up to its name in recent years and only six horses have stood their ground for Saturday’s renewal. Three of those hold an entry in the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham and Ptit Zig is expected to start odds-on favourite.

The five-year-old joined the Paul Nicholls stable from France last season and won impressively on his debut at Ludlow on his only start before going to Cheltenham to contest the Fred Winter Handicap Hurdle. He ran a great race to finish third to Flaxen Flare and ended the season by winning a handicap at Sandown off a mark of 134.

Nicholls then took him back to France where he finished second to Diakali in a Grade 1 hurdle before winning at Auteuil. He handled the heavy ground well and that should bode well for his chances at Haydock on Saturday.

Ptit Zig was set to carry 11st 12lb in the valuable Ladbroke Handicap Hurdle at Ascot with his official rating now upped to 151. Travelling well throughout, only the lightly-weighted Willow’s Saviour proved too strong for him in the closing stages.

Nicholls is already looking forward to starting him over fences next season but he has not ruled out a tilt at the Champion Hurdle if the going is soft. Melodic Rendezvous also has Champion Hurdle aspirations despite a poor display in the Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle.

Trainer Jeremy Scott reported that the horse had pulled muscles during that race and the form can be safely ignored. He had previously looked as good as ever when winning the Elite Hurdle at Wincanton and he was a top class novice last season.

Act Of Kalanisi seems to have taken on a new lease of life since adopting front-running tactics and is the mount of Tony McCoy. He was never headed at either Ffos Las or Leicester but he still has over a stone to find with the front two on official ratings.

Ifandbutwhynot won the listed Gerry Feilden Hurdle at Newbury in good style and then finished second at Musselburgh on New Year’s Day. Jumps Road ran well for a long time behind The New One at Cheltenham before getting into a barging match with Zarkandar.

He eventually faded back into third and may have been flattered by his proximity to the winner. Morning Royalty completes the line-up but looks out of his depth in this grade.