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Sunday, 16 December, 2018

Finian's Oscar aiming at Stayers' in race with a golden record

Finian's Oscar: chasing career has been aborted for now
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3.35 Cheltenham Cleeve Hurdle (Grade 2) | 3m, 5yo+ | ITV4/RUK

There could be a new staying star on the block as Finian's Oscar makes his first start over hurdles since chasing plans were abandoned earlier this month.

Four of the winners in the last ten years have gone on to score at that year's festival, most famously Big Buck's (twice), who was switched back to hurdles from his embryonic chasing career and went on to land the Stayers' Hurdle a record four times.

Finian's Oscar is the latest top-class performer to have his sights refocused midway through a season with the hope of being just as successful with that rebranded Sun Bets Stayers' Hurdle.

Saturday's jockey Bryan Cooper raised the question after Finian's Oscar paid in a photo-finish for a clumsy round of jumping over Ascot's fences last time.

Trainer Colin Tizzard said: "Bryan put up the idea after Ascot and it took a week to come round to that thinking – his jumping has been a bit of an issue.

"He is still a good horse and in really good form. He has always made a little noise so we have put a tongue-tie on and will see if we will be going for the Stayers' Hurdle."

Wholestone has that home win attitude

Nigel Twiston-Davies has had a fair few Cheltenham specialists in his time and Wholestone is certainly another who likes the home fixture a dozen miles from his Naunton stable.

The seven-year-old has won six of his 13 starts but strip out his away days and he is four from six, including last year's Grade 2 novice hurdle on this card, with the other two a second and third.

Twiston-Davies said: "He loves Cheltenham. We run him most times there.

"He was very good last time after ran disappointingly behind Beer Goggles at Newbury. However he put that well behind him at Cheltenham."

Colin's Sister bidding to bring back memories of a Lady

There was a time when the girls ruled the Cleeve Hurdle but that is a distant memory that Colin's Sister will be trying to resurrect as she bids to overturn Relkeel Hurdle form with Wholestone and Agrapart.

The girls' glory period over five consecutive years were down to Mistinguett (1998), Lady Rebecca's hat-trick (1999-2001) and Kates Charm (2002).

Colin Sister's trainer Fergal O'Brien, looking for his first winner of the year, said: "The step up to three miles will suit her and if the ground  stays soft that would be ideal. She is getting a bit more weight from Wholestone this time so we're looking forward to the rematch."

What they say

Lizzie Kelly, rider of Agrapart
He is a brilliant horse who ran a cracker in the Relkeel again this year. He is working really well and hopefully everything will go his way. The fact the race is over further will be a bonus.

Evan Williams, trainer of Court Minstrel
I rode a lot against Richard Woollacott in point-to-points and it will be very poignant. I never normally have runners who I want to get beat, but I think everybody wants Beer Goggles to do it.

Nicky Henderson, trainer of Thomas Campbell
I didn't think he performed to his very best at Ascot last time but he was very good at Cheltenham the two previous times.

Tom George, trainer of The Worlds End and Saint Are
The Worlds End has come on a lot from Ascot. You can put a line through Haydock first time so Ascot was really his first run and he's ready to step up to the next level. All roads lead to Aintree for Saint Are and we are starting over hurdles as we don't want to run in big handicaps.

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Bryan put up the idea after Ascot and it took a week to come round to that thinking - his jumping has been a bit of an issue

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