Champion tactical permutations open
Those hoping that Countrywide Flame will adopt the role of pacemaker in Tuesday's Stan James Champion Hurdle may be left clutching at straws, according to trainer John Quinn.
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Quinn, delighted to be on the mark at Sandown with Calculated Risk, returns to the Festival with last year's Triumph Hurdle winner in the hope that he holds "a sporting each-way chance".
The softening of the ground doesn't worry the trainer, but the lack of an evident pacemaker does.
"You never see a slowly-run Champion Hurdle, but I know that everyone's talking about it and you've got to think about these things," Quinn told Sportinglife.com.
"I wouldn't necessarily want him to go from the front. He's won that way on the Flat and he's a tough, versatile horse, so that's in his favour, but you don't win Grade Ones from the front - or you certainly don't see many won that way.
"If the tapes go up and everyone stands still then fine, but I'm not sure it's what I'm looking for.
"If Zarkandar was mine, I'd be riding him from the front. I've seen Hurricane Fly go from the front too - and win well. Of course, I'm not telling anyone how to run their horses, but I'm just saying that you never know until the tapes go up."