Kalann Team Leaning Towards Champion Hurdle Bid
Hot favourite Hurricane Fly, 8/11 with the sponsors, put up a brilliant display to emerge victorious in last season’s £370,000 Stan James Champion Hurdle (3.20pm) and this year he is one of three entries remaining for Ireland’s champion trainer Willie Mullins, who could also saddle Grade One winners Thousand Stars and Zaidpour.
Jessica Harrington is set to run Oscars Well, who finished second to Hurricane Fly in the Irish Champion Hurdle on his most recent start. The 12 six-day confirmations also include 2010 victor Binocular, who warmed up for The Festival with an authoritative success in Wincanton’s Kingwell Hurdle, and last season’s JCB Triumph Hurdle hero Zarkandar, successful at Newbury on his seasonal reappearance last month.
The Co Kildare handler said: “We are leaning towards the Stan James Champion Hurdle. He has been in good form since Gowran, but he scoped badly afterwards so we put him on antibiotics and he is fine now.
“He did it very easily when he won at Cheltenham in October and the way he did it was very impressive, but he was quite a small horse then and he has got bigger and stronger since then.”
The five-year-old has been running well on softer ground since his Cheltenham success, finishing a length and a quarter behind The Real Article at Down Royal in November, before finding the ground too heavy behind Hurricane Fly in the Irish Champion Hurdle.
Harty continued: “He is a good ground horse and all his runs in Ireland are on soft ground so we just put a line through them. He has never won on ground with soft in the description. In the Irish Champion Hurdle the ground was yielding the day before but on the day it was almost unraceable, so we just let him hack round and he had had a short break after Down Royal anyway.
“He is a laid-back horse and that is why we hold him up as it appears to suit him.”
As well as Zarkandar, Paul Nicholls could saddle Rock On Ruby, who was second to Binocular in the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton last time out, while Greatwood Hurdle winner Brampour is also a possible starter for the champion trainer along with 2009 runner-up Celestial Halo.
Donald McCain saddled Peddlers Cross to finish second last year and he could be represented by the front-running Overturn, who gained his first success at Grade One level in the Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle in November. The six-day confirmations are completed by Olofi, who was second behind Brampour in the Greatwood Hurdle in November.
The going at Cheltenham is currently:
Chase & Hurdle Courses - Good, good to firm in places (watering)
Simon Claisse, Director of Racing and Clerk of the Course at Cheltenham, said today: “We are watering the Old and New Courses over the next three days, so that will take us up to Friday afternoon.
“Hopefully, we will have been able to water the ‘good to firm’ out of the ground.
“Then we will assess the ground and take a look at the forecast again, but my hunch is we will be watering at the weekend so we can start the meeting on the slow side of good, or good to soft.”
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