Racing: Suny Bay to go before public trial

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TRAINERS made some tricky decisions yesterday about whether to send their horses for the Champion Hurdle or easier targets at the Cheltenham Festival, but when Suny Bay's participation in the Gold Cup is decided the punting public will be allowed to take part in the process.

French Holly and Zaralaska were among the notable withdrawals from the Champion at yesterday's five-day acceptance stage, with the Royal & SunAlliance and Supreme Novices' Hurdles their new respective targets.

Despite their defections and those of Collier Bay, Grey Shot and Sharpical, next Tuesday's pounds 200,000 race could have its largest field in several years after a total of 22 horses were left in yesterday.

Ferdy Murphy is convinced that he is right in ruling French Holly out of the Champion. "It was a very difficult decision but in my heart of hearts I know it is right. All year the plan had been to give him about four runs then go for the novice race. We'd kick ourselves if we got it wrong. Everything has worked out well so why change it?

"I would much sooner run in the novice race and have people asking why he didn't go for the Champion than run him in the Champion and have people say I'm an idiot."

Mary Reveley, who has built her career on the cornerstone of caution, surprisingly has allowed Marello to run in the Champion rather than the Stayers' Hurdle.

"Unless it dries out considerably the Champion is probably the race she will run in. I hope you can ignore her run at Sandown last time. She might not be good enough but I think she deserves to take her chance."

Mrs Reveley, outlining plans for her other Festival runners, Foundry Lane and Robbo, then reverted to more characteristic mode. "As long as they all come home safe and sound that's the main thing. Cheltenham has never meant a great deal to me as we have never had any luck down there."

Charlie Brooks, meanwhile, will make a decision over Suny Bay's participation in the Gold Cup after the grey has worked at Sandown on Saturday. "It's not ideal," Brooks said yesterday. "If you have got a Gold Cup horse you don't really want to be taking him to a racecourse the Saturday before Cheltenham, but he will be short if we don't.

"I may be making a noose for myself but I think it is the right thing to do for two reasons. I think it is the right thing to do for the horse, and the right thing to do for the public.

"The horse has got a good following and it is right to let the public see him and make their own minds up. We are planning to go one mile on the bridle and jump seven fences."