Racing: Shakespeare aimed at a winter of content

A decision will be made tomorrow morning as to whether Royal Shakespeare, one of the few credible British-trained challengers to the Irish dominance of the Champion Hurdle scene, will put his credentials on the line in the Bula Hurdle at Cheltenham on Saturday. The five-year-old delighted his connections with his seasonal debut third behind title favourite Harchibald in the Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle 12 days ago, but trainer Steve Gollings values his charge's potential too much to take any chances.

A decision will be made tomorrow morning as to whether Royal Shakespeare, one of the few credible British-trained challengers to the Irish dominance of the Champion Hurdle scene, will put his credentials on the line in the Bula Hurdle at Cheltenham on Saturday. The five-year-old delighted his connections with his seasonal debut third behind title favourite Harchibald in the Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle 12 days ago, but trainer Steve Gollings values his charge's potential too much to take any chances.

"We would like to run," the Lincolnshire-based handler said yesterday. "We wondered whether the Bula would come a bit quick after Newcastle, but he has been in extremely good form since. He will have all the usual tests before we decide whether to declare him and if he scopes clean and his blood profile is satisfactory, then we'll run. But he'll have to be in perfect nick; we have always said that the campaign would be planned round him rather than the other way round."

In common with many high-class hurdlers, Royal Shakespeare, owned by businessman John Webb, is a Flat reject, bought for 52,000 guineas at auction at Doncaster in May last year. His one success in the first sphere of his career came in a 0-50 handicap at Abu Dhabi, the sole return for the 200,000 guineas he cost Sheikh Mohammed as a yearling.

The gelding burst on the top-level hurdling scene at Aintree in April, and though he provided a 25-1 shock when he beat Contraband, he showed it was no fluke by taking Supreme Novices' Hurdle winner Brave Inca to a short-head in a Grade 1 contest at the Punchestown festival. His run in the first edition of the Fighting Fifth run as a Grade 1 was further confirmation of his right to mix it with the best.

Not that Gollings needed it. "In a small to middling-sized yard, you get used to training the same sort of standard of horse," he said, "and then, when you get one like this, it's light years different, a whole new ball game. We've had a Cheltenham winner before [1998 Kim Muir winner In Truth] and I know a good horse from a bad one. And this is a good one, drop-dead gorgeous and certainly Champion Hurdle material.

"He's a high cruising speed and a brilliant competitive attitude. If there is a chink, it's that he's a little gassy. He's got away with it so far, but once he learns to settle that will take him to another level." Royal Shakespeare, a son of King's Theatre, finished four lengths behind Harchibald at Newcastle, with Inglis Drever, also a Bula entry, intervening. Tom Doyle, on board that day, will keep the ride.

Should Royal Shakespeare turn out on Saturday, his opponents will include the former champion Rooster Booster and Irish raider Back In Front, returning to the scene of his victory in the last year's Supreme Novices'. The Bob Back gelding missed the second half of last season after being beaten in the December Festival Hurdle at the Leopardstown Christmas meeting. This season he made a successful return on the Flat at Navan in October before finishing second to Harchibald in the Morgiana Hurdle at Punchestown last month. "I'm happy with him and hoping for a good run," said trainer Eddie O'Grady.

More light will be thrown on the Champion Hurdle picture in Ireland on Sunday, when the reigning king Hardy Eustace makes his belated seasonal debut against the queen of the division, Solerina, at Navan.

It was decided yesterday that Moscow Flyer, winner of Saturday's Tingle Creek Chase, will remain in two-mile company en route to the Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham, and so will miss the King George VI Chase on Boxing Day in favour of the Grade 2 chase at Leopardstown he has won for the past two years. The decision leaves Moscow Flyer's regular partner, Barry Geraghty, free to ride Kicking Kick at Kempton.

* Redemption, a leading fancy for Saturday's feature chase at Cheltenham, the Bonusprint Gold Cup, has been transferred by his owners to Martin Pipe, who also houses the first two ante-post favourites Our Vic and Celestial Gold. The nine-year-old had been trained by Nigel Twiston-Davies.

Suggested Topics
Life and Style
Fans line up at the AVNs, straining to capture a photo of their favourite star
life Tim Walker asks how much longer it can flesh out an existence
Life and Style
Every minute of every day, Twitter is awash with anger as we seek to let these organisations know precisely what we think of them
techWhen it comes to vitriol, no one on attracts our ire more than big businesses offering bad service
News
Professor David Nutt wants to change the way gravely ill patients are treated in Britain
people Why does a former Government tsar believe that mind-altering drugs have a place on prescription?
News
Norway’s ‘The Nordland Line – Minute by Minute, Season by Season’ continues the trend of slow TV
television
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
art
Sport
Jonny Evans has pleaded not guilty to an FA charge for spitting at Papiss Cisse
football
Life and Style
Kate Moss will make a cameo appearance in David Walliams' The Boy in the Dress
fashion
News
The image released by the Salvation Army, using 'The Dress'
news
Sport
Liverpool defender Kolo Toure
football Defender could make history in the FA Cup, but African Cup of Nations win means he's already content
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Technical Presales Consultant - London - £65,000 OTE.

£65000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Technical Presales Engineer - central London ...

Recruitment Genius: Physiotherapist / Sports Therapist

£20000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Physiotherapist / Sports Ther...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive / Advisor

£8 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives / Advisors are required...

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Operative

£14000 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for a...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

Homeless Veterans campaign

Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

Lost without a trace

But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

Confessions of a planespotter

With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

Russia's gulag museum

Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

The big fresh food con

Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

Virginia Ironside was my landlady

Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

Paris Fashion Week 2015

The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
8 best workout DVDs

8 best workout DVDs

If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

Paul Scholes column

I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable