Racing: Owner moves Hanakham from Hodges

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The Independent Online
Hanakham, one of the most promising steeplechasers in the country, has been removed by his owner from the small Somerset stable of Ron Hodges to the total surprise of his trainer.

The nine-year-old, winner of the Royal SunAlliance Chase at the Cheltenham Festival in March, was sidelined for the season because of a tendon problem, but the decision by his owner, Malcolm Brereton, to take the horse away has astonished Hodges. "I cannot believe it as we've never had a difference of opinion or a cross word," Hodges said, "so what the hell's happened I just don't know.

"I'm absolutely gutted to lose the horse as he's one of the best we've ever trained and would have a chance of winning the Gold Cup when he's recovered from the leg trouble."

Hanakham's rider at Cheltenham, Richard Dunwoody, has been approached by Ted Walsh to ride his Commanche Court in the Ladbroke Hurdle at Leopardstown on 10 January. The mount is available as Norman Williamson has been given a three-day riding ban, which rules him out of the race.

Walsh has targeted Dunwoody and Tony McCoy to ride the Triumph Hurdle winner, who is 5-1 favourite for the Ladbroke with the sponsors after a Leopardstown win on Sunday.

"Richard will let me know in the next couple of days, but I don't want to hold a gun to anyone's head," Walsh said. "I haven't contacted Tony McCoy as I presumed he would be committed. It's a spare ride for either Richard or Tony if they come along. I'm sure both would like to ride the winner of the Ladbroke.