Ascot rescue lost Champion Hurdle trial

Click to follow
The Independent Online

The International, a Champion Hurdle trial and one of the races lost when Cheltenham was waterlogged last week, has been rearranged for Ascot on Saturday, making a seven-race card starting at 12.30.

The race will carry its full prize-money of £200,000 and will form part of a trio of top-class hurdle events which will all be shown live on BBC1. Starting times have been altered to accommodate the International, which is scheduled for 1.40 and will be the third race of the meeting. The BGC Long Walk Hurdle will now be run 30 minutes later than originally planned at 2.10, with The Ladbroke at 2.45.

"This will be a truly fantastic day's racing and probably the greatest day's hurdling ever seen," said Leon Blanche, head of public relations at Boylesports. We are happy to offer the full prize-money, as well as the £200,000 bonus for any horse who wins our race and goes on to win the Champion Hurdle at the Festival."

All 11 horses previously entered at the five-day stage will automatically be carried forward to Ascot – the final declaration stage will be on Friday – and Alan King has said that Champion Hurdler Katchit will run. Katchit was among an original nine-strong Cheltenham field that also included Binocular, the current ante-post favourite for next March's renewal, Crack Away Jack, Celestial Halo, Harchibald and Chomba Womba.

The Barbury Castle trainer admitted that Katchit would have been better suited by Cheltenham, where he has won on five of his six starts, but is nonetheless happy the International has been saved. "He will definitely take his chance at Ascot at the weekend," said King. "I think we need to be very grateful to everyone involved for putting the work in and getting this race on. Obviously we would have preferred it to have been at Cheltenham as he loves the place, but I need to get a run into him and I'm quite happy to go to Ascot. He'll work in the morning and we will just keep him ticking over as usual."

Ascot chief executive Charles Barnett commented: "Our card will exceed £500,000 – a first for jumping at Ascot. It is particularly good news that the BBC have been able to juggle their programme to include the Boylesports International. These things take time to pull together, and we were all keen to ensure that BBC coverage and the full prize-money pot were confirmed before we went public."

BHA media relations manager Paul Struthers added: "It's fantastic news that Boylesports and Ascot have agreed to support the rescheduling of the International, and thanks must go not just to them but also to the other sponsors and the Levy Board for helping to make it possible."

The JP McManus-owned Belcantista has been the subject of a major market move in The Ladbroke Hurdle. The six-year-old was on offer at 25-1 on Monday, but is now a best-priced 7-1. Belcanista won by six lengths on his first start for Philip Hobbs at Exeter last month and the Minehead trainer said: "He has good Flat form in France, he has raced round Auteuil and obviously he is handicapped on what he has done over there. He won easily at Exeter but the form is difficult to measure as the second horse had good bumper form but it is hard to know how good he is over hurdles.

"He could be well handicapped but I wouldn't say he definitely is. Off a mark of 127 he could struggle to win another novice with a penalty so I thought we might as well make use of it in case it's lenient. A lot of novices probably wouldn't cope with the more experienced handicappers but he is a very experienced horse."

Hebridean, a Group Three winner at the Curragh in May for Aidan O'Brien, makes his hurdling debut in the first race at Newbury today. Now trained by Paul Nicholls, Hebridean is as short as 12-1 for the Triumph Hurdle at Cheltenham in March with Victor Chandler and Ladbrokes.