By Jon Lees
Philip Hobbs reports Defi Du Seuil “as good as ever” but would like more rain at Cheltenham before he begins his new campaign on Sunday.
The leading two-mile chaser is on track to reappear in Sunday’s Shloer Chase, in which he recorded a comeback victory 12 months ago, with Richard Johnson set to take over from the now-retired Barry Geraghty.
Defi Du Seuil suffered one of the biggest upsets of the last Cheltenham Festival when he could finish only fourth in the Queen Mother Champion Chase for which he had been sent off 2-5 favourite, a performance Hobbs has been unable to explain.
“We are planning to run him, but maybe I have a slight reservation about the fact that we could do with more rain for him to produce his real best,” said Hobbs about the going which is officially good, good to soft in places. “Most of his racing over two miles has been on soft ground.”
Last season Defi Du Seuil followed his victory in the Shloer by twice beating Un De Sceaux in the Tingle Creek and Clarence House Chases.
The chance to complete a perfect campaign in the Champion Chase appeared to have been handed to him when both defending champion Altior and hotly-fancied Chacun Pour Soi were both late non-runners.
But he was under pressure from some way out and after stumbling at the last finished more than 13 lengths behind winner Politologue.
Hobbs said: “He appeared to be rather flat tacking him up before the race at Cheltenham and Barry thought he was a bit flat during the race, but there wasn’t anything that came to light as to why he ran so moderately at the Festival. We have put it down as a one-off.
“He seems in as a good a form at home now as he ever has done.”
Although Johnson is Hobbs’ stable jockey, he has not ridden Defi Du Seuil in a race since the 2019 Punchestown Festival, because Geraghty was retained by owner JP McManus, and last won on the horse when they captured the 2017 Triumph Hurdle.
Hobbs said Defi Du Seuil would follow the same programme as last season. “That will be the plan, hopefully with a different result at the Cheltenham Festival,” he added.