Racing: Collier back to work on the racecourse

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The Independent Online
Collier Bay returned to the racecourse for the first time since he lifted the Champion Hurdle crown last March when he worked on grass after racing at Lingfield yesterday.

Three days after missing the Irish Champion Hurdle with his No 1, Collier Bay's trainer, Jim Old, took advantage of the soft conditions to reunite his star with Graham Bradley for a spin around the Surrey track.

Tracking his stablemate Simpson from the start at a steady pace, Collier Bay moved alongside round the final bend and stretched clear over the final two furlongs to finish around 10 lengths in front.

Provided the ground is good or softer, the champion will make his seasonal debut in the Agfa Hurdle at Sandown a week on Saturday.

"He's alive, he's sound, no bandages. Odds on Collier Bay now?" Old said.

"That was lovely. It was just a nice scamper round in the ground. It's the first time he has got his toe in since 11 March last year. The firm ground has been more a worry than the frost."

Collier Bay was due to make his reappearance early last month but firm ground and the abandonment of meetings have held him up.

As a result the Agfa may be Old's only remaining chance of running him before the Festival. "Let's hope we have a bit more rain. But it wouldn't be the end of the world if he didn't run," he said.

"So many other opportunities have been lost. I reckon there are about eight events, like the City Trial Hurdle, which was run at Nottingham, which no longer exist. The only one left is the Kingwell at Wincanton, but that falls too close to Cheltenham."

Bradley was delighted with the exercise. "I didn't want him to do too much in the ground which was very tacky, but that was just about perfect."