New can stake Champion claim
Ian Brindle's horse-by-horse guide to the StanJames.com International Hurdle at Cheltenham on Saturday.
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The New One
Current ante-post favourite for the StanJames.com Champion Hurdle. This race hasn't exactly been a great trial for that race in recent years though Nigel Twiston-Davies' inmate seemed to have no problems in seeing off a below par Rock On Ruby at Kempton on reappearance. Has won three of his five previous visits to Prestbury Park and needs a win to advertise his credentials ahead of next March.
Won this race last year in convincing fashion though will have to repeat the dose with an additional 4lb under the conditions of the race . Headgear was left off on his Kempton reappearance and is again absent, but one would imagine he'll have come on greatly for that run and this race should tell Paul Nicholls plenty about likely targets at the Festival.
Shouldn't be wanting for race fitness having recently bagged a couple of races on the Flat at Deauville and is stepped up in class having won a Listed race over hurdles at Enghien. A winner of 10 of his 17 starts over hurdles though something to prove against this calibre of opposition.
Sent off a well-backed favourite at Ascot before compromising his chances with a serious jumping error and subsequently was well held in the Greatwood Hurdle when attempting to give weight all around. Appeared progressive when securing Scottish Champion Hurdle and is a previous winner when small fields have obtained.
Made all to win off a mark of 125 at Sandown in November and seemed held when slipping up at Haydock on his latest start. More than capable of showing his form on any surface though has a mountain to climb at the weights and others are easily preferred.
A winner of Listed races at Auteuil this autumn albeit disappointing badly last time when stepped up to 2m5f in a Grade 2 event at that track. Hard to know whether he'll be able to transfer that soft ground form to Saturday's quicker going but has to be given some respect as trainer sends just the one runner across the channel.
A three-time winner at Wincanton and probably put up a career best when obliging there in a handicap just eight days ago. Great to see Colin Tizzard taking a chance when other trainers have taken evasive action and should give connections a good day out.
This looks on the face of it to be a straight match between THE NEW ONE and Zarkandar and preference is for the former. Zarkandar was the victor when the pair met in the Aintree Hurdle over 2m4f but the two tracks couldn't be more different and Paul Nicholls' inmate does not wear the blinkers that he donned on that occasion. Court Minstrel could be the one to profit were any of the market leaders to err and he is at least proven on the prevailing going.