Saphir Du Rheu: Hennessy fifth to be aimed at the World HurdlePICTURE: Mark Cranham (racingpost.com/photos)
Nicholls opts to send Saphir back over hurdles
SAPHIR DU RHEU's chasing career is being temporarily aborted for the second time after Paul Nicholls abandoned plans to run the Hennessy Gold Cup fifth in this season's Cheltenham Gold Cup.
The Ladbrokes World Hurdle, in which the six-year-old finished second last season, has once again become his major aim after connections reflected on Newbury, where the 9-2 favourite almost came to grief at the 15th fence and made another mistake two jumps later before weakening under his 11st 12lb burden.
Andy Stewart's six-year-old had been a best-priced 25-1 for the Cheltenham Gold Cup - although as short as 12-1 with some firms - but he is now 10-1 with the sponsors for the World Hurdle, which last season became his target after he twice parted company with Sam Twiston-Davies in novice chases.
Nicholls wrote on his Betfair blog: "At the core of my thinking is the fact Saphir Du Rheu is only six, so I've always been concerned the 2016 Cheltenham Gold Cup would come a year too soon for him. Andy agrees with this plan so this is very much a team decision.
"I have now taken the horse out of the King George and entered him in the Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot. If he doesn't run there then we have the option of the Cleeve Hurdle. This way I think he will have a serious chance of going one better in the World Hurdle."
Nicholls could also target back-to-back wins in the Betfred Bowl, and added: "It is important to say I still think Saphir Du Rheu will be a serious chaser in time and I am not ruling out a return to fences for him at Aintree in April.
"When he comes back into training next autumn he will be aimed once more at the Hennessy Gold Cup before heading for the Cheltenham Gold Cup in 2017."