The Champion Hurdle winner Make A Stand now seems likely to make his seasonal debut in the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton on 27 December, where he could clash with the Supreme Novices' Hurdle winner, Shadow Leader.
Make A Stand has not raced since his five-race winning run was halted when he trailed in third to Bimsey and Pridwell in the Aintree Hurdle on Grand National day last season and his reappearance this term has been delayed by a minor cut to a foreleg. Make A Stand, trainer Martin Pipe's only entry among the 14 published for the Christmas Hurdle yesterday, won the valuable Lanzarote Handicap Hurdle at the Sunbury venue last season.
Shadow Leader is 11-2 favourite with Coral for the Champion Hurdle with Make A Stand 7-1. The firm have cut Grey Shot to 20-1 from 33-1 for the race after winning a novice hurdle on his jumping debut at Taunton yesterday.
The Christmas Hurdle has also attracted the Champion Hurdle fourth I'm Supposin, but his trainer Richard Rowe, mindful that the Kempton race might fall foul of the weather, will also enter I'm Supposin for the Knights Royal Hurdle at Ascot next weekend.
The Ascot event could also attract Sanmartino, who recently beat I'm Supposin in the Gerry Feilden Hurdle at Newbury. Rowe said yesterday: "On recent evidence you can't rely on the Christmas Hurdle taking place. The horse needs a run and a couple before Cheltenham. If Ascot is on I might well be tempted to run there and I wouldn't be bothered about taking on Sanmartino again. He's a great big colt who needs a couple of hard races to get there."
Indefence, winner of the 1996 Supreme Novices' Hurdle, is also on the comeback trail. He has not raced for 18 months. Jenny Pitman's assistant David Stait said: "We're hoping to get him ready to run but the weather will play the biggest part. Opportunities will be limited because he is so highly rated. He's going to have to make up into a conditions horse or things are going to be tough for him.
"He's a bigger, more furnished, horse than he was when he won at Cheltenham, so you would hope there would be some improvement in him. If his legs stand up I'm sure there are races to be won with him, even if not the Champion Hurdle. We think he picked up a niggle when he last ran at Aintree that didn't show itself until we started training him last year. It just started to grumble away so Jenny decided to stop and treat the injury properly."
Meanwhile Mudahim, one of Mrs Pitman's two remaining entries in the Welsh National, has only a 60-40 chance of lining up at Chepstow on the same day as the Christmas Hurdle. The 11-year-old, who won the Irish Grand National last Easter, has 11st 1lb in the Chepstow handicap chase. Stait said: "It would be touch and go whether he's ready as he didn't come back to us until late. It's probably 60-40 against running at the moment. We'd like to get him there but if we feel he's short then he won't run."
Mrs Pitman, who has a great record in the Welsh National, having saddled subsequent Grand National winner Corbiere to win in 1982, subsequent Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Burrough Hill Lad in 1983 and Stearsby in 1986, had withdrawn Nahthen Lad from the three mile five furlongs and 110 yards contest, leaving Jet Rules, beaten 53 lengths into sixth behind Sesame Seed in a handicap hurdle at the Welsh course last Saturday, as the only other possible.
Indian Tracker was yesterday cut to 7-1 and joined his stablemate Cyborgo at the head of Coral's betting for the Welsh National. But Banjo remains friendless in the market and Coral have pushed him out to 8-1 from 7-1.
Pipe's overall hand in the race is looking strong as he also has Eudipe (12-1), Dom Samourai (12-1) and Evangelica (20-1) in the staying contest.
Welsh National betting: Coral: 7-1 Cyborgo, Indian Tracker (from 8-1), 8-1 Samlee, Banjo (from 7-1), 10-1 Belmont King, What A Hand, 12-1 Eudipe (from 10-1), Dom Samourai, 14-1 Bells Life, General Wolfe, 16-1 Celtic Abbey, Sister Stephanie, Cariboo Gold, 20-1 bar
Champion Hurdle: Coral: 11-2 Shadow Leader, 6-1 Istabraq, 7-1 Make A Stand, 12-1 Sanmartino, 16-1 Wahiba Sands, Dato Star, Collier Bay, 20- 1 I'm Supposin, Pridwell, Grimes, Grey Shot (from 33-1), 25-1 bar.