Mille Chief (left): emerged as a potential Champion Hurdle challengerPICTURE: Mark Cranham (racingpost.com/photos)
Mille Chief cut for Champion after easy win
MIILLE CHIEF booked his ticket for the Totesport Trophy with an effortless performance at Sandown on Saturday, but he could have an even bigger target on his agenda, according to trainer Alan King.
The master of Barbury Castle has always held the McNeill family-owned five-year-old in the highest regard and has not ruled out a tilt at the Champion Hurdle, for which Paddy Power offer 20-1.
Saturday's race looked a competitive handicap on paper, but Mille Chief had too much class for his eleven rivals, despite giving lumps of weight away all round.
"That was a big relief. It wasasking a lot off top weight and I was worried as I adore him. I just wanted to get some practice into him as it's only the sixth race of his life," said King.
Regarding future targets, the trainer added: "He'll go for the Totesport Trophy [Newbury, February 12] and he'll also get an entry in the Champion Hurdle."
Mille Chief was one of several runners on Saturday to stake their festival claims, the first of whom was Banjaxed Girl, who made all under Sam Twiston-Davis in Sandown's Listed hurdle for mares, earning a quote of 14-1 (from 20s) for the David Nicholson Mares' Hurdle with Stan James.
Sandown's feature race, the Grade 1 32Red Hurdle, unearthed a potential star in the form of Minella Class, who was cut for two Cheltenham races after easily disposing of Megastar by seven lengths.
Stan James make the winner a 10-1 shot (from 16) for the Neptune Investment Management Novices' Hurdle, while William Hill offer the same price (from 25s) for the Supreme Novices' Hurdle.
Synchronised (left) battles on gamely to land the Welsh NationalPICTURE: Getty Images
At Chepstow, Tony McCoy completed his Grand National set as Synchronised landed a hefty ante-post gamble to land the Coral Welsh National. Saturday's race sponsor now make him their 14-1 favouritefor the John Smith's Grand National, two points shorter that last years hero Don't Push It.
McCoy has reservations about the winner having "the scope" for Aintree and 20-1 is still freely available for anyone looking to back him to complete the National double.
The McCain family have a rich tradition at Aintree and the stable's Kim Muir-winner, Ballabriggs, got his campaign off to the perfect start in the staying novice hurdle at Wincanton. He was cut across the board for the National and heads 888sport's market at 16-1.
The JCB Triumph Hurdle market was turned on its head after Marsh Warbler upset hotpots Sam Winner and Smad Place in the Grade 1 Finale Hurdle. The winner relished the testing ground and is now one of four horses at the head of Stan James' market at 10-1.
Sam Winner, who had been the firm's outright 4-1 favourite, is among the four after he could manage only fourth, one place behind Smad Place, who was eased to 12-1 (from 9).
In Ireland, the Willie Mullins-trained Flat Out made a successful chase debut, earning a quote of 10-1 for the Jewson Novices' Chase in March and 4-1 (from 10) for the Irish Arkle on January 23 with Paddy Power.
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