County trainer’s hopes high for winning ways

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COUNTY trainer Paul Cowley is juggling his options in an effort to land that elusive Towcester winner when the Northants track stages its first meeting of 2012 on Sunday.

Culworth-based Cowley has seen both Grand Article and Billy Murphy occupy positions in the frame at his local course in 2011/12.

He is hoping one of them can go one better after making entries in the 2m 1/2f Haygain Hay Steamers – Clean Healthy Hay Handicap Chase at 2.10pm.

Grand Article was second of six runners to the Henrietta Knight-trained Bertenbar here back in November in a race over 2m 3 1/2f but then probably didn’t get the extra distance when asked to travel 2m 6f in mid-December.

He has since advertised his well-being by finishing third at Warwick on New Year’s Eve, where again his stamina just appeared to run out at the end of a 2m 4 1/2f trip. This drop back in trip could be a worthwhile experiment, especially on a tough track like Towcester.

The grey Billy Murphy has been given a short breather since finishing a runner-up at Towcester on Boxing Day to Pensnett Bay over a slightly longer distance. The nine-year-old rallied gamely after the last fence under 7lbs claimer Rachel King to grab second spot but was still two and a quarter lengths in arrears of the winner.

While it is more likely Cowley will only run one of his charges, the county picture in the race is clouded by the fact both trainers Caroline Bailey and Anna Brooks could be represented.

Bailey has pencilled in entries for course winner Bohemian Rock as well as Earl Of Thomond who benefited hugely for a recent treatment to an ulcer problem when an encouraging third on his chase debut behind My Faithful Annie at Huntingdon. There could be better to come on a track where he has performed well before over hurdles.

Meanwhile, Brooks could go double-handed to Towcester with Devils River, known as Damian at home, in the 2m contest and Duke Of Ormond in the 3m 1/2f handicap chase. Duke Of Ormond was sixth behind Ukrainian Star at Towcester on Boxing Day.

Soldier in the novices’ chase.

Although the scheduled start at Towcester is currently 1.40pm, a possible division of maiden hurdle contests, could bring this forward while admission to the track is free.