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Bay Win Suggests the Tide has Turned
02/02/10

County Durham based trainer Howard Johnson has his horses in terrific form at present, a fact advertised by the impressive victory of Tidal Bay in Saturday's Grade 2 Cleeve Hurdle at Cheltenham, writes Elliot Slater.

Tidal Bay
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Tidal Bay

Many people had written off the 2008 Arkle Chase winner after a below-par effort last time out in the Peterborough Chase at Huntingdon, where the nine-year-old faded tamely into fourth place behind Deep Purple. Johnson, however, has never lost faith in a horse who won ten of his first 17 races.

Following the Huntingdon defeat Johnson decided to freshen up Tidal Bay with schooling sessions over hurdles and then opted to return the gelding to the smaller obstacles at Cheltenham last Saturday. His handler's patience was handsomely rewarded as his charge came storming up the hill to land a 14/1 victory, proving conclusively that he stays three miles well.

The World Hurdle and a potential clash with hot favourite Big Bucks - as short as 4\7 in the Cheltenham betting odds - could now beckon for Tidal Bay. Johnson hasn't made any firm plans and will want to consider all his options now he knows his horse stays three miles so well. A return to fences is not out of the question, but on the better ground that he prefers there is every reason to believe that the Andrea and Graham Wylie-owned Irish bred gelding could give the favourite plenty to think about with other serious challengers looking decidedly thin on the ground.

Having been thought of by some as a back number, it was great for the Johnson team to see Tidal Bay return to his best and good for the World Hurdle to have a serious and unexpected challenger to consider. You'll certainly hear worse Cheltenham betting tips in the run up to the festival.

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