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14 Feb 2011 | 19:15
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Key Newbury date for CottonHeadlines
Cotton Mill

Cotton Mill faces his acid test ahead of the Cheltenham Festival when he makes his seasonal reappearance in the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury on Saturday.

The six-year-old is as low as 16-1 for the Stan James Champion Hurdle, even though he has yet to run over two miles. Campaigned over further last term, Cotton Mill has his first attempt at the trip in this valuable and ultra-competitive handicap.

Trainer John Ferguson admits it is a "fact-finding mission", and hopes the horse will also come on for his first run since finding three miles too far when third to Lovcen at Aintree in April.

He had won his first three starts over jumps before veering before the second-last and unseating Denis O'Regan when leading eventual winner Simonsig in the Neptune Investment Management Novices' Hurdle at Cheltenham.

"He's very well and he's been in great form for a while, but we didn't want to run him on heavy ground. We're looking forward to a good run, but wouldn't be surprised if he improves for the run," said Ferguson.

"He won over a mile and a quarter on the Flat at Newmarket, so two miles over hurdles shouldn't be a problem. It's as much a fact-finding mission in that hopefully after Saturday, if all goes well, we are going to know what his optimum trip is.

"I think we found out at Liverpool that three miles is beyond him. He was going very well in the Neptune but we don't know how that would have ended up. What we are on is a fact-finding mission to establish if this is his trip.

"He won a Grade Two over two miles, five furlongs at Warwick. We know he's a nice horse over two and a half.

"It will just give us an indication as to how effective he is over the minimum trip and then we can choose what race we want at Cheltenham once we've seen how he goes on Saturday."

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