Racing: Setback for Staunch

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The Independent Online
STAUNCH FRIEND, one of the market leaders in the betting for the Champion Hurdle, has suffered a training setback. Many bookmakers took the Mark Tompkins-trained gelding out of their ante-post lists yesterday.

William Hill had quoted Staunch Friend at 10-1 for the Cheltenham championship, but a tendon strain now sidelines him along with Carobee and Montelado, both ruled out of the 15 March race because of injury.

Staunch Friend put up an impressive performance when landing the Bula Hurdle at Cheltenham last month. Phil Green, a spokesman for the Tompkins stable, held out hopes that the six-year-old might still run at Cheltenham. 'The injury might be something or nothing and a lot will depend on how the horse progresses over the next few weeks,' he said.

The stable's other Champion Hurdle contender, Halkopous, is reported fully recovered from a cut he sustained at Christmas.