Ian Williams could have two leading chances at The November Meeting, with First Assignment and Speedo Boy heading the ante-post betting for their respective engagements at Cheltenham on BetVictor Gold Cup Day, Saturday.
Promising five-year-old First Assignment (10st 9lb) is set to tackle three miles for the first time in the £40,000 Listed Regulatory Finance Solutions Handicap Hurdle (3.00pm, 17 entries).
The Irish point-to-point graduate, who finished third in the EBF Novices Handicap Hurdle Final at Sandown Park in March, is already a course winner as he made a successful reappearance at The Showcase last month, when coming with a strong challenge after the last and getting up in the final stride to beat Vive Le Roi by a short-head in the Brandon Hill Capitol Handicap Hurdle over two miles and five furlongs.
Williams, who is based in Worcestershire, said: “First Assignment is on course for the Listed Regulatory Finance Solutions Handicap Hurdle on Saturday.
“He went up 5lb for his win at The Showcase [to a rating of 130], which looks a fair mark, and the step up to three miles should suit him judged on his last performance.”
The trainer is also hoping Speedo Boy (10st 9lb and joint 27th in the weights) makes the cut for the £25,000 BetVictor Intermediate Handicap Hurdle (3.30pm, 37 entries) over two miles and five furlongs, in which a maximum of 24 runners can line up.
This race has been used as a springboard by some very good horses in recent years, most notably future stars Punchestowns (2008) and Grands Crus (2010).
Speedo Boy had three starts in juvenile hurdles last season, the latest of which saw him finish fifth behind Apple’s Shakira in the JCB Triumph Hurdle Trial at The November Meeting in 2017.
He has been plying his trade on the Flat during the summer and finished a creditable sixth behind Low Sun on his latest start in the valuable long-distance Cesarewitch Handicap at Newmarket on October 13th.
Williams explained: “Speedo Boy may struggle to get into the BetVictor Intermediate Handicap Hurdle but, if he does, he could be quite dangerous off his mark of 118.
“He has performed very well in staying races on the Flat this summer but, up until now, has yet to race over further than two miles over hurdles.
“I am sure the step up to two miles and five furlongs will be in his favour.”