Ashes fired up for Champion charge
Donald McCain is adamant forgotten horse Cinders And Ashes has a "massive each-way chance" in the Stan James Champion Hurdle at next month's Cheltenham Festival.
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The six-year-old enjoyed a superb novice campaign over hurdles last season, rounding off his year with victory in the Supreme Novices' Hurdle at Prestbury Park.
This season has not gone so smoothly, with Cinders And Ashes suffering a comprehensive odds-on reverse in the Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle before finishing only fifth in the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton.
He has not been seen since, as McCain has been keen to avoid the prevailing testing conditions this winter.
But the Cholmondeley-based handler is confident Cinders And Ashes, who will complete his Cheltenham preparations with a gallop after racing at Bangor on Wednesday, will show his true colours in a fortnight's time.
"He seems in great nick, the gallop here is drying up and he's happier. He's really coming to," said McCain.
"I've said it before, but he is very much a decent-ground horse.
"The easiest thing for me to do was to not run him anywhere this season, but that wouldn't have done him any good and the worst thing that could have happened was that he was going to get beat.
"He has got beat, he's got beat a couple of times and well beat, but I don't think you can judge him until he gets his ground.
"We're very happy with him at home and I'd like to think we'll see a completely different horse in two weeks' time.
"I would never say we're going to win a Champion Hurdle, but I think he'll be different enough to run a big race.
"We've been second in the last two Champion Hurdles and while the other two lads (Peddlers Cross and Overturn) had to be ridden very prominently because we were taking a chance over two miles, this horse has a bit more tactical speed and he switches off and relaxes.
"When he's had his ground the form is there.
"He will be ready to go and he has a massive each-way chance.
"You'll see a completely different horse come Champion Hurdle day."