Racing: Staunch Friend diverted to Italy

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The Independent Online
STAUNCH FRIEND, among the favourites for the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham in March, left Newmarket yesterday in search of a pounds 90,000 prize in Italy.

The five-year-old is to run in the Gran Corsa di Siepi di Roma at the Capannelle in Rome on Saturday. Trainer Mark Tompkins has decided on the foreign trip for Staunch Friend in preference to the Haydock Park Champion Hurdle Trial on the same day.

Tompkins explained: 'The penalty value was pounds 7,800 when Granville Again won the Haydock race last year. I'm obviously much better off going to Italy.

'The hurdles there are very similar to our all-weather obstacles which Staunch Friend has schooled over. He is a clever horse who ought to be able to cope.'

The Haydock race may still have a strong bearing on the Champion Hurdle, however, with Granville Again, Coulton, Gran Alba, Ruling and Valfinet all among the entries.

The Peter Marsh Chase on the same card is also likely to provide some pointers for Cheltenham. Martin Pipe's Welsh National winner, Run For Free, is set to be opposed by Jodami, Grand National winner Party Politics, Mackeson victor Tipping Tim and course specialist Twin Oaks.

Promising novice chaser Dusty Miller, who won the County Hurdle at Cheltenham last season, will miss this year's Festival after returning from his latest success on Boxing Day with a leg injury.

Windsor's meeting tomorrow became the 43rd casualty of the jumps season when it was called off after a noon inspection yesterday. Clerk of the course Hugo Bevan said: 'Parts of the course and paddock are under water.'

(Photograph omitted)