Betway Challow Novices' Hurdle
Grade 1, Newbury 15:00
£45,000 added, 4yo plus,
2m 4f 118y, Class 1  
Saturday 28th December 2019

1 Thyme Hill 4/6F
2 The Cashel Man 5/2
3 Enrilo 8/1
5 ran Distances: 1½l, 18l, 13l
Time: 4m 57.15s (slow by 8.15s)

Philip Hobbs' Thyme Hill finished third in the Champion Bumper at Cheltenham in March and had made the perfect start to life over hurdles, winning his first two.

On the back of those efforts Thyme Hill was sent off the 4-6 favourite, but Richard Johnson was niggling him along from an early stage.

The Cashel Man was allowed an easy lead in front and tried to stretch the field turning in, but Thyme Hill loomed up alongside him on the bridle.

A blunder at the last gave The Cashel Man another chance, but Johnson kept his mount up to his work to win by a length and a half.

Hobbs is now favouring heading straight to the Cheltenham Festival in March with Thyme Hill, although the ground is likely to prove crucial in deciding whether to tackle the Ballymore Novices' Hurdle or the three-mile Albert Bartlett.

He said: "He stays well. He (Johnson) said he dossed a bit when he got to the front.

"No (his jumping wasn't as good) and that's what concerned me a bit, but he said he was just dossing in behind the others. He has pulled him wide coming into the straight and he was slap bang on the bridle, but then he has dossed in front as well.

"I think it will be ground dependant (at Cheltenham). If it is soft ground he will go two-miles-five, but if it was goodish ground he would probably go three miles.

"He has done everything fantastically well and, as you can see, he is not the biggest horse in the world, but that has not stopped him still being very good.

"Last time we stood here after the Challow Hurdle when Fingal Bay won it (in 2011), we said he was the best horse we had and he duly flopped.

"I'd probably see how he is, but my first reaction is we would go straight to Cheltenham as he is not the sort of horse that wants to be running every week.

"Last year he got stronger through the season as he was not sticking the racing very well, although he won his first race at Worcester and was second in a Listed race at Cheltenham before being third at the Festival.

"He was a horse that wasn't going to stand a lot of racing at that stage. He is much better now and will get stronger and his constitution will get better with time.

"I'd just be concerned if he raced before Cheltenham it might be one race too many."

Challow Novices' Hurdle
£45,000 added, 4yo plus, 2m 4f 118y, Class 1
5 ran
Going: Soft

1    Thyme Hill 5 11-7 Philip Hobbs Richard Johnson 4/6F
The Cashel Man 7 11-7 Nicky Henderson Jeremiah McGrath 5/2
18 Enrilo 5 11-7 Paul Nicholls Harry Cobden 8/1
13 Stick With Bill 5 11-7 Harry Whittington Gavin Sheehan 20/1
F Eclair Surf 5 11-7 Emma Lavelle Adam Wedge 16/1s