Micky Hammond anxious to prove Cornerstone Lad is the real deal in Champion Hurdle Trial at Haydock
- Micky Hammond tips Cornerstone Lad to show his Newcastle win was no fluke
- Cornerstone Lad beat Buveur D’Air who had suffered a freak hoof injury
- Henry Brooke will ride the six-year-old when he rides at Haydock on Saturday
- Hammond believes Lad has improved physically and mentally over the last year
Trainer Micky Hammond is hoping Cornerstone Lad will prove his win in the Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle was no fluke when he lines up in this afternoon’s Champion Hurdle Trial at Haydock.
Cornerstone Lad gave Hammond the biggest win of his 30-year training career when beating dual Champion Hurdler Buveur D’Air in November.
But the fallout from the race was dominated by the wooden splinter which got stuck in Buveur D’Air’s hoof, a freak injury which looks like it has ended his season.
Micky Hammond has tipped Cornerstone Lad to show his Newcastle win was no fluke
Cornerstone Lad will have the testing ground he thrives on at Haydock, having had four wins and three seconds from his seven runs on heavy ground.
He will again be ridden by Henry Brooke, who has never been out of the first three in eight rides on the six-year-old.
Hammond, who trained the 1,000th winner of his career last week, said: ‘He is in good form and it is the race we nominated after winning the Fighting Fifth. He had a gallop after racing at Wetherby last Saturday and we are looking forward to the race.
‘We did not go into the Fighting Fifth thinking we would beat Buveur D’Air. It was disappointing Buveur D’Air picked up an injury but we did beat (third placed) Silver Streak three-and-a-quarter lengths and (fourth) Lady Buttons six lengths giving her 7lb.
‘They have both come out and run with credit since. I still think it was a good effort by our horse.
‘I bought him for £9,000 as a two-year-old and he was big and gawky. He is a horse who has improved physically and mentally in the last 12 months.’
Three opponents face Cornerstone Lad in a race named in honour of four-time winner The New One. They include Christmas Hurdle third Ballyandy and 2019 Triumph Hurdle winner Pentland Hills. Darasso, winner of last season’s Red Mills Trial Hurdle at Gowran Park, represents Irish trainer Joseph O’Brien.