Outlining running plans for his Festival hopefuls in ‘The Racing Post’, the Lambourn maestro, who has prepared more Cheltenham winners than any other trainer in history, nominated the Timeform Novices Steeplechase as the ideal target.
He said: “Champ was quite lame in the stables at Cheltenham for a period after his fall but he was sound the next morning.
“Kelso is three miles and a nice race for him. He’s schooled well since. I just think Champ needs to go left-handed and I’d rather go to Kelso than right handed at Ascot, in the Reynoldstown Chase.”
Champ is a best priced 7/2 favourite for the RSA Chase, which is the blue riband event for novice chasers, and he’ll be a significant draw for racegoers at the Borders track – even without knowing the extent of the opposition he’ll face.
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The feature race of the day is the £30,000 Timeform Morebattle Hurdle Race, which will be run this year as a limited handicap for the first time in a number of years.
Explaining the change, Kelso Racecourse managing director Jonathan Garratt said: “We’ve enjoyed seeing some great horses while the race has been staged as a conditions event, in which most horses carry the same weight.
“But the field sizes have been small. We’re hopeful that, by opening the race up to a narrow weight range, we’ll attract a few more runners without losing any of the quality.
“For many of our annual members and regular customers, this day is one of the best days of the year and, if the Morebattle works well in this format this year, we’ll be increasing the prize fund for the race substantially in future years.”
Last year’s winner, We Have A Dream, trained by Nicky Henderson, went on to finish a close second in the County Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival. Henderson has mooted the race as a possible target for Pentland Hills, a live contender for the Champion Hurdle.
The seven-race programme features five realistic trials for the Cheltenham Festival which, in addition to the Morebattle Hurdle and the Timeform Novices Chase, include a three-mile Hunterchase, the £10,000 Belhaven Brewery Novices Hurdle and the Class 2 Edinburgh Gin Handicap Steeplechase, in which Selkirk’s Captain Redbeard beat Definitely Red last year.
A limited number of tickets are still available online. The first race gets under way at 1.37pm and gates will open at 11.30am.