Thomas Campbell reverts to hurdles at Cheltenham

Relkeel test for Henderson seven-year-old

  • Monday 31 December
  • News
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Nicky Henderson hopes the decision to send Thomas Campbell back over the smaller obstacles will pay off in the Dornan Engineering Relkeel Hurdle at Cheltenham.

The seven-year-old has won three times at Prestbury Park and returns for a shot at this Grade Two prize on New Year’s Day.

He kicked off his career over fences by finishing fourth behind top-class mare La Bague Au Roi at Newbury in November, before justifying cramped odds when opening his account at Ludlow.

The Seven Barrows inmate was last seen finishing second to Bags Groove at Huntingdon and while that was a perfectly respectable effort, his jumping left plenty to be desired.

Henderson said: “He wasn’t very good over fences last time. He is in good form, but I just thought he might enjoy himself with a spin back over hurdles.

“You could go both ways with him. He did jump well round Newbury over fences, but he just didn’t the last time over them.”

The Evan Williams-trained Clyne was last seen finishing second behind Unowhatimeanharry in the Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury.

The Welsh trainer admits he would prefer more testing conditions at Cheltenham.

Williams said: “The ground is my only concern. He’s in good form and we can’t hold on to him forever. We’ve missed a few engagements because of the ground already.

“We know he’s better on softer ground, but I walked the track the other day and there was some cut in the ground, so we’ll give it a go.

“The conditions of the race are perfect for him. He’s getting weight off the right horses and it’s his chance to win a Grade Two.

“We can’t do anything about the ground and it’s the same for them all, so we’ll see what happens.”

Midnight Shadow rounded off last season with victory in the Scottish Champion Hurdle and opened his account for the current campaign on his latest outing at Aintree.

Trainer Sue Smith said: “He came out of his win at Aintree very well and won nicely that day.

“He likes soft ground and I think he is very special.

“He won the Scottish Champion Hurdle last season and the idea is to keep him over hurdles and see if he can improve again.”

The Nigel Twiston-Davies-trained Wholestone won last year’s renewal and is back to defend his crown.

His rider Daryl Jacob said: “Wholestone has been fine since Newbury. His two disappointing runs have both come there, so maybe it is the turf there which is a problem for him if he can’t quite get his toe into it – he doesn’t seem as comfortable on it.

“There have been no problems with him since then and he has been working very well at Nigel’s.

“He is a horse who likes Cheltenham, he really enjoys the track and we’re going back there with high hopes for a good run.

“We think Wholestone is well, his work has been good and hopefully he can put up a bold show.

“With regards to the trip, he is very adaptable and he’s won over two and a half and he also stays three miles.

“I don’t think he is necessarily better over either trip. He’s got plenty of stamina as well as speed and hopefully we see the real Wholestone on New Year’s Day.”

Old Guard, trained by Paul Nicholls, and Colin Tizzard’s Cyrus Darius complete the six-strong field.

Thomas Campbell reverts to hurdles at Cheltenham
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