Black Jack Blues primed for Fontwell showdown

Fontwell-bound: Black Jack Blues
Fontwell-bound: Black Jack Blues
The start of racing on Washout Wednesday / Picture by Malcolm Wells

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Rebecca Curtis primed Black Jack Blues for an assault on the National Spirit Hurdle and declared: He’s in the form of his life.

The promising Newport trainer this week entered her stable star in Sunday’s Grade 2 contest at Fontwell (3.45pm).

Hurdling heavyweights such as Karabak, Celestial Halo, Sentry Duty, defending champion Trenchant and two-times winner Lough Derg also feature among the star-studded cast for the track’s richest race.

Black Jack Blues’ form stacks up nicely against his potential rivals, though.

His second to Nicky Henderson’s star hurdler Oscar Whisky in the Welsh Champion Hurdle earlier this month has put him among the leading contenders for the £32,500 first prize.

And despite the 600-mile round-trip from her Fforest Farm home in Wales – with the added potential of soft ground – Curtis insists this is an opportunity she isn’t ready to pass up.

‘He will definitely run,’ said the emerging handler.

‘He is in really good form at the moment – probably the best we have ever had him.

‘He wouldn’t want the ground too soft and that’s the only worry.

‘Whatever the ground is, though, he will run.

‘We have got him where we want him for racing so we will definitely run him.

‘We don’t have many runners at Fontwell so we have never won there.

‘It would be nice to get off the mark at the weekend, definitely.’

Curtis is only in her fourth campaign as a National Hunt trainer and is already forging a fearsome reputation.

She has yet to record a major victory, though, and the National Spirit Hurdle would go down as the biggest triumph of her fledgling career.

Black Jack Blues has been denied three times in Graded company, most recently finishing sixth behind Silviniaco Conti in the Ascot Hurdle in November.

Curtis is not concerned about his form at the top level, though, and will not be worrying about Sunday’s opposition until her training rivals show their hands at the final declaration stage today.

‘I wouldn’t say he hasn’t been at his best, they have just been very good races,’ she said.

‘We won’t know until declarations who he will be up against or what chance he has at Fontwell.

‘I’m not sure whether Celestial Halo will run now. He seemed to have a hard enough race in the Kingwell (second to Mille Chief) but we’ll just have to wait and see what happens when the final declarations are made.’

Black Jack Blues is not entered in the Cheltenham Festival next month.

Instead, Curtis will look for an opportunity at Aintree’s Grand National meeting in April before switching her charge to fences.

Black Jack Blues could be joined at Fontwell on Sunday by stable-mates Herons Well, who is entered in the Foxhunters’ Trial, and novice chase hopeful Adams Island.

Fontwell’s action-packed seven-race card begins at 2.10pm.