HAYDOCK: McCain the magician strikes again with Merlin

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By Lee Mottershead
Racing Post

Pertemps Network Handicap Hurdle(Registered as the Swinton Hurdle) (Grade 3) 2m, 4yo+

RED MERLIN and Donald McCain proved themselves to be the kings of two codes when the horse and his trainer wrote their names into the Swinton Hurdle’s roll of honour.

On Wednesday, McCain had been celebrating at Chester, where Ile’De Re and Overturn gave him a famous one-two in the StanJames.com Chester Cup.

Three days later, and back in the more familiar surrounds of a jumps race, the John Smith’s Grand National-winning trainer was once again triumphant as Red Merlin justified heavy market support to give his stable its second major north west prize of the week in a contest this season run as the Pertemps Network Handicap Hurdle.

Like McCain, Red Merlin was showing himself to be as potent over jumps as on the Flat for in the summer of 2009 he had won one of Haydock’s showpiece Flat handicaps, the Old Newton Cup, when trained by Clive Cox.

The Flat speed displayed to win that race was very much evident on this occasion, as the seven-year-old – backed down from a morning high of 12-1 to 13-2 favouritism having been tipped up by Pricewise – travelled beautifully under Jason Maguire before striking the front entering the final furlong. Once in the lead, he pulled further clear, passing the judge with two and a half lengths to spare over the staying-on Tony Tie (9-1).

Double Ross (14-1), who set out to make all, stayed on honourably to take third, one place in front of Dream Esteem (16-1).

“It’s been a magic week, it really has, and all the better to do it at our local tracks,” said McCain.

“This has almost been the target since he came back in after Christmas, but I did panic about the ground yesterday and we had thought about not coming because he’s a decent ground horse. It was a worry but I’m glad we came here.

“We’ll keep going with him. We’ll try to find some hurdle races for him and if they’re not there we can mix and match as there’s one or two decent Flat races he can run in. It’s a nice problem.”

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