Caution over Collier

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The Independent Online
Collier Bay's owner, Wally Sturt, said yesterday that he is prepared to bypass defending the Champion Hurdle if the going is unsuitable.

The British Horseracing Board is discussing the possibility of sanctioning a special contest at Towcester next Friday which would be suitable for horses of Collier Bay's calibre. That would represent the best chance for the gelding's trainer, Jim Old, to get Collier Bay on to the track before the Festival. Tomorrow's Agfa Hurdle at Sandown has been ruled out because of fast ground.

The BHB has also had offers from Ayr and Bangor to stage the event and will make a decision on Monday. The ability to provide the right ground holds the key. Sturt, at "good to soft" Towcester to see his other Champion entry, Juyush, win, said: "If the race goes ahead here next Friday then we will come back - we'll stand for this sort of ground.

"There's nothing else for him. The Wincanton and Haydock trials are too close to Cheltenham. He needs his races spaced out and if the Towcester race doesn't get the go-ahead he will go straight there, assuming the ground is ok.

"Jim's on record as saying that if the ground at Cheltenham is good we'll run, but if it's not we won't. Jim loves horses more than he does people and if the ground was fast, we'd wait until next year. He's seven and only a baby."

If Collier Bay runs at Towcester, Old faces a jockey problem, as Graham Bradley, who partnered him at Cheltenham is due to be under suspension. Jamie Osborne is standing by.

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