Champion ambitions on ice

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The Independent Online
Cheltenham aspirants could endure another frustrating Saturday, following the loss of all last weekend's jump fixtures, unless temperatures rise significantly to allow Sandown's valuable Agfa day to go ahead.

The meeting, which features the Scilly Isles Novices' Chase, Agfa Hurdle, Agfa Diamond Chase and Tote Bookmakers Handicap Hurdle, has only a 50- 50 chance of going ahead, according to the clerk of the course, Andrew Cooper.

"There are bare parts that are still frozen solid," Cooper reported. "We are getting a very, very slow thaw, but we are still some way away from getting a raceable surface."

The Agfa Hurdle has attracted a field of Champion Hurdle aspirants that includes the David Elsworth trio Absalom's Lady, Atours and Oh So Risky, who have been thwarted by the loss of the Bula, Christmas and Cleeve Hurdles this season.

"I would like to get Atours to Cheltenham with a bit of an edge on him as he is a stuffy horse," Elsworth said. "Absalom's Lady is likely to run too if Sandown is on.

"Muse is also in the Champion and has been pleasing us at home. He has had a long lay off and we hope to have the chance of running him somewhere before the Festival."

n Klairon Davis, last year's Arkle Trophy winner, completed the course for the first time in three runs in the Ballymore Eustace Chase at Punchestown yesterday but could finish only second to Brockley Court who now heads for Cheltenham's Grand Annual Chase.