Published 11th February
Nicky Henderson could conceivably have three strong contenders for the Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle but at the prices CHAMPAGNE PLATINUM appeals as the value pick.
The star-studded team are all in different ownership with the selection representing JP McManus, who recently bought second favourite (in most lists) Fakir D’Oudairies, trained by Joseph O’Brien.
However, as Henderson also trains Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle favourite Champ for McManus and Champagne Platinum has yet to go beyond two miles, this would seem the grey’s logical target even if he lines up as his owner’s ‘second string’ on the day.
Henderson implied as much in a recent edition of his Unibet blog, adding that attheraces.com blogger Barry Geraghty “is mad about this horse.”
So far Geraghty has ridden him for speed, whilst also teaching him to challenge between rivals, justifying short-priced favouritism with ease at both Newcastle and Newbury, the latter under a penalty.
Don’t be surprised though if more aggressive tactics are employed at Cheltenham because the gelding is bred along very similar lines to Champagne Fever, the 2013 winner of this.
Don’t be surprised though if more aggressive tactics are employed at Cheltenham because the gelding is bred along very similar lines to Champagne Fever, the 2013 winner of this for Willie Mullins, being by Stowaway out of a Roselier mare. Ruby Walsh, attacking from the word go, succeeded in getting his mount to outstay a couple of subsequent Champion Hurdle stalwarts in My Tent Or Yours and Jezki that day.
With regards the selection, who knows what improvement Champagne Platinum may be capable of in a more competitive environment that invariably tests stamina as well as speed.
Favourite with most firms (11-2 best) is stablemate Angels Breath, who dotted up on his only racecourse start in a Grade 2 event at Ascot just before Christmas. Undeniably impressive there, he nevertheless appears priced up more on home reputation than what he’s achieved on the track.
Henderson’s other main contender, Mister Fisher, is perhaps more realistically priced at around 11-1 having followed up his Kempton novice success by beating dual winner Bright Forecast in the Grade 2 Rossington Main at Doncaster.
Available at similar odds is Al Dancer, trained by Nigel Twiston-Davies, and likely to have gone off clear favourite for the cancelled Betfair Hurdle.
Winner of all three starts over hurdles, including a Cheltenham handicap that’s been franked by the comfortably held runner-up, he runs in the same colours as Angels Breath.