Golden opportunity for My Tent to reassert Champion claims
Stanjames.com International Hurdle (Grade 2) | 2m1f | 4yo+ | CH4/RUK
Dual Stan James Champion Hurdle runner-up has what trainer Nicky Henderson describes as a "golden opportunity" to reassert himself as a live challenger for the race in 2017 when taking on five rivals on favourable terms.
It would be harsh to describe the JP McManus-owned nine-year-old as an underachiever, but he can frustrate on the big occasions and has been second on all three appearances at Cheltenham as well as on four of the five occasions when Barry Geraghty has ridden him.
It is nearly three years since he gained his last hurdles win at the expense of today's main rival The New One in the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton, and he is dismissed at 50-1 in a place for the big one in March, in which his owner's Yanworth is currently much the shortest-priced British possible.
Nicky Henderson appreciates that My Tent Or Yours ought to win on these terms and said: "This is the day he has to show he's still a live contender, for while it's very competitive he's now thrown away his penalties and so is getting 8lb from Old Guard and The New One.
"He's been in good form and it's a golden opportunity for him to step back on to the big stage."
The New One, due to be ridden by Richard Johnson after Ryan Hatch was injured yesterday, bids to emulate three-time winners Birds Nest and Relkeel, having been an odds-on winner of the International Hurdle in 2013 and 2014 before missing last year's race with a sore foot.
Twiston-Davies, who appreciates the scale of the task, confirmed: "We were trying to go over fences but meetings were getting called off and so on and this is obviously an attractive prize and one he's won twice already. He's in really good form and we are hopeful, but he's got a job on giving 8lb to My Tent Or Yours.
"The idea is still to go over fences unless he bolts in, when things might change."
Skelton eyes Miyagi chance
Dan Skelton does not miss many opportunities when he suspects higher-rated runners might be vulnerable, and he saddles Mister Miyagi, who was a three-time winner as a novice last season, mostly in relatively modest company.
He said: "I have got a lot of respect for My Tent Or Yours getting the weight and, if the same My Tent Or Yours from the Champion Hurdle turns up, then we are not going to beat him. But he has got a bad run to put behind him and that is probably going to be the key part to the race. If he is there to be beaten, then I think we have a great chance.
"The ground is going to be fine for our horse. I would not be running him if it was soft. I am delighted we can go to a track he loves on ground he likes for a big prize. We have got to make the most of these opportunities."
Last year's winner Old Guard faces a tougher task under an 8lb penalty, but is not to be dismissed. Paul Nicholls said: "The ground was far too heavy for him the other day, but he won this race last year and he's in good shape.
"This is a better race probably, and he came here on fire 12 months ago, but he loves the track and I think he can run really well on this better ground. He's got a chance."