Geordie sidesteps Challow in search of handicap prize
Betfred Wishing You A Happy New Year Handicap Hurdle | 4yo+ | 2m4½f | RUK
Geordie Des Champs sits out the Challow Hurdle to try his luck at handicapping in which he aims to extend his unbeaten run to five for trainer Rebecca Curtis.
After winning his third novice hurdle in a row at Chepstow earlier this month, connections indicated sights would be raised at today's Grade 1 prize but with owner JP McManus bringing over his Baltazar D'Allier from Ireland for the Challow, Geordie Des Champs goes for this.
Boite represents Warren Greatrex, who won the race a year ago with One Track Mind who ended the campaign winning the Champion Stayers' Hurdle at the Punchestown Festival. Whisper was another former winner who went on to future Grade 1 success.
Lac of recent action
Former County Hurdle winner Lac Fontana makes his first start since the 2015 Grand National meeting having dropped to the same mark off which he triumphed at Cheltenham in 2014.
What they say
Evan Williams, trainer of Court Minstrel and John Constable
Court Minstrel is getting on in age and is stuck between being badly handicapped and not good enough for those conditions races. He has won off this mark but I wouldn't have thought he is the same horse he was. John Constable has been disappointing and hasn't really sparkled at all. He has never won a handicap but the extra distance might be a help for him.
Warren Greatrex, trainer of Boite
He won well at Wetherby and this will be a lot harder but I think the step up in trip will help. He has run well round Newbury before and he's still relatively unexposed over hurdles. He has gone up in the handicap and we will see if he can pull out a bit more.
Paul Nicholls, trainer of Lac Fontana and Nexius
Lac Fontana is going to go novice chasing soon enough, but he's a hard horse to get fit at home and he should sharpen up for this. We've tried blinkers with Nexius and we're now switching to cheekpieces as he'll need to step up on what he's been doing lately.
Gordon Elliott, trainer of Kings Bandit
He was going well when he fell three out at Navan last time. He's in good form and we sent him over as he has to go left-handed.
Ali Stronge, trainer of Royal Guardsman
He has had a wind operation. He was going to run at the November meeting but hadn't eaten up. He seems in good form and he likes Newbury, which is the reason we have waited this long.
Richard Woollacott, trainer of Floresco
We found a slight problem with him after he tried this trip at Kempton so we are hoping that was a one-off. The handicapper has probably got him so we have to try it again. Every jockey who has ridden him says he should stay and if he does he would have a bit of a chance.
Tim Vaughan, trainer of Theligny
We only ran over two miles last time because it was a smallish field, he is inexperienced and we wanted to step him up in grade. He likes this track and this trip should be massively in his favour. He is a lovely progressive horse but it's obviously super competitive.