Yesterday's race, switched from waterlogged Leopardstown, was Fortune And Fame's first for 277 days, but the horse who would have started favourite for last year's Champion Hurdle, but for a last-minute injury, proved himself ready to challenge the best at the Festival six weeks tomorrow.
Ridden by Mark Dwyer, he challenged Clifdon Fog and Aries Girl between the last two flights and readily took up the running. Aries Girl cut the deficit to one and a half lengths on the run-in, but Fortune And Fame's win was hard to fault.
"He had a good blow afterwards but he is back with the kind of victory we had hoped for," Weld said. "He will obviously be better for the run and I will enter him for the Kingwell Hurdle [at Wincanton on 23 February] if I feel he needs another run beforethe Festival.''
Dwyer, who won last year's Champion Hurdle on Flakey Dove, said: "He did what he was asked. He quickened up smartly for about 100 yards and pinged the last, then seemed to think he'd done enough." The jockey wisely hedged his bets when asked about his likely mount at Cheltenham. "I will make no comment yet," he said.
Coral took a line between their two main rivals, offering 5-1 (from 8-1) about Fortune And Fame for the Festival, a point longer than Relkeel. The firm then bets: 5-1 Large Action, 11-2 (from 5-1) Danoli, 10-1 Montelado, 12-1 Flakey Dove, 14-1 Atours, 16-1 bar.
Large Action, who has missed several possible engagements recently because of frost and heavy ground, may make an unexpected appearance at Kelso on Friday, with the Agfa Hurdle at Sandown the following afternoon another possible target.
"I am not worried about the closeness to Cheltenham, because Large Action does not need a lot of work," Oliver Sherwood, his trainer, said. "The ground will determine his race.''
n Antonin was found to be coughing after he was last of five finishers in a chase at Fairyhouse yesterday and is returning to Sue Bramall's Thirsk stables.Reuse content