Racing: Bay watch on weather

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The Independent Online
Collier Bay, the champion hurdler, made a winning return to the track at Towcester yesterday, but anyone holding an ante-post slip on a successful defence of his title at Cheltenham next month will now be watching the skies as anxiously as the pre-Festival preps of his main market rivals, writes Greg Wood.

Jim Old's gelding was far from spectacular yesterday in holding the challenge of Relkeel, running for the first time in two years, by three-quarters of a length. Ladbrokes still felt it necessary to cut him to 5-2 from 3-1 for the Champion Hurdle on 11 March (Relkeel is 7-1 from 20-1 with William Hill) but, given Old's post-race comments, it seems unlikely that the bookies will need extra staff to cope with the morning rush.

"We will not be going if the ground is firm, they must do something about it," Old said, before adding a comment which must be a serious contender for overstatement of the year. "If the conditions are the same for the Festival as they are now, running a horse there will be like General Haig sending them over the top in the First World War."

Relkeel too may yet be absent next month. "If they don't produce the right ground, we won't be there either," David Nicholson, his trainer, said.