sport

Peddlers Cross tops Haydock hopefuls

Peddlers Cross heads a total of eight entries for the Champion Hurdle Trial at Haydock on Saturday after the race was reopened.

The 2011 Champion Hurdle runner-up switches back to the smaller obstacles after a mixed campaign over fences last season.

Well beaten on his final start in the Jewson Novices' Chase at the Cheltenham Festival in March, Peddlers Cross is ready to return to action.

Trainer Donald McCain wants to get the horse started as soon as possible and has given him an entry in the Keltbray Holloway's Hurdle at Ascot, also on Saturday, just in case Haydock falls to the weather.

It is likely Peddlers Cross would face strong opposition at the Merseyside track headed by Grandouet.

Nicky Henderson's charge made a fine return to action after a year on the sidelines when second to Zarkandar in the stanjames.com International Hurdle at Cheltenham in December.

The John Quinn-trained Countrywide Flame, so impressive when winning the Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle but only fourth in the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton, may try to get his Champion prospects back on track.

Raya Star, runner-up to Darlan in the Christmas Hurdle, represents trainer Alan King along with Balder Succes.

Irish trainer Charles Byrnes has put in Solwhit, although the nine-year-old is more likely to stay nearer home for the Limestone Lad Hurdle at Naas, also on Saturday.

Paul Nicholls could step Dark Lover up in grade after his emphatic success in a Cheltenham handicap hurdle last month while Sue Smith's Mwaleshi completes the list of possibles.