Ground concerns for Verdana Blue in Champion but 'intention is to run'

But ‘horrible’ ground could cause rethink

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The owner of Verdana Blue is hoping the rain predicted for Cheltenham next Tuesday does not turn into a deluge so that his mare can line up in the Unibet Champion Hurdle.

Verdana Blue, who runs in the colours of Charlie Parker’s Crimbourne Stud, inflicted the only defeat on dual champion Buveur D’Air over hurdles since the 2016 Festival in the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton on Boxing Day.

“The forecast is not ideal, but our intention is to run unless it came up really horrible,” he said.

“And if she ran we would probably have to give her a break after that, which would rule out of running on All-Weather Finals day on Good Friday and probably Aintree as well.

“She did beat Buveur D’Air on good to soft at Kempton which Nicky Henderson describes as the fastest ground since the M1, but it was officially good to soft.”

Verdana Blue was a late scratch from last year’s Champion Hurdle because of the going but has taken a step forward this season with wins in the Elite and Christmas Hurdles and a fourth place in the Greatwood Hurdle.

“We pulled her out the day before the race last year because the conditions were just hideous after all that snow melted and it was really heavy,” said Parker. “This time unless it really does change to heavy we will run.

“It was the ground that beat her in last year’s Betfair Hurdle too. It was horrible that morning. She travelled beautifully at Newbury and was something like 1.4 on Betfair going to the second-last and then she just stopped. We’ve asked for Davy Russell to ride her again.”

In a renewal notable for mares, 12-1 chance Verdana Blue has earned little mention alongside Apple’s Jade and Laurina.

“It’s nice to be under the radar,” Parker said. “The trainer has told everybody on every Cheltenham preview night that he’s been to that she can’t win but maybe the market is not listening.

“I think on decent ground she will have a chance but I thought she would win on Boxing Day. I was proved right, but I am normally proved wrong.

“When she ran in the Greatwood at Cheltenham she got the most terrible passage through and came charging up the hill. That was the first time in three runs at Cheltenham that she has really finished her race.

“I’ve got a feeling she might be a bit stronger and more mature.

“I can see her nicking a place or even something better if Buveur D’Air hits one like he did at Kempton, Apple’s Jade keeps jumping right, as people tell me she does, and Laurina is not as good as everyone thinks. You never know.”

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