AP McCoy and Tent to pitch up for Kempton bid
JP McManus' leading Champion Hurdle contender My Tent Or Yours looks set to warm up for the mouth-watering opening day feature of next month's Cheltenham Festival in a 'bumper for jumpers' at Kempton on Sunday.
A narrow runner-up to Champagne Fever in the 2013 Supreme Novices Hurdle, the handsome seven-year-old then ran away with an Aintree Grade Two and stretched his winning spree to three this term with Grade One victories in the Fighting Fifth and Christmas Hurdles, Ulster's prolific Tony McCoy the regular rider.
He is a top-priced 5/1 for Cheltenham glory, but gruelling ground conditions prompted Nicky Henderson to swerve yesterday's Morebattle Hurdle at Kelso and tomorrow's Kingwell Hurdle at Wincanton.
After a spate of cross-channel abandonments, the British Horse Racing Authority revealed details of a bumper card for jumpers on Kempton's polytrack surface on Sunday. The seven-race initiative was supported with 303 entries yesterday.
"My Tent Or Yours is an intended runner," Henderson confirmed.
"It's a lot better going (to Kempton) than running on heavy ground at Wincanton."
Henderson's 2011 Gold Cup hero Long Run did make the journey to Kelso and he enjoyed a confidence-boosting Grand National preparation when seeing off Knockara Beau in decisive fashion under Sam Waley-Cohen at odds of 2/5.
It was his first triumph since securing back-to-back wins in the King George in 2012.
"I was very happy with him, it was job done," Henderson said.
"He jumped well and we'll see about Cheltenham. I wouldn't rule it out, but I wouldn't say he's going there.
"The National is his principal objective and if we think he's best going there fresh, then we'll not run him again before."
There was an Ulster success in the Kelso bumper for Larne's in-form Crawford brothers, trainer Stuart and jockey Steven.
Knocklayde Express was a well-supported 3/1 favourite on her debut and rallied gamely to prevail by a head.
Tomorrow's Wincanton's programme has been reduced to an all-hurdle affair and must still survive a 7.30am inspection on the day.
This afternoon's scheduled Sandown card and Sunday's Ffos Las meeting have been cancelled.
Hopes for a resumption of domestic activity at Gowran Park tomorrow following the midweek losses of Clonmel and Thurles hinge on how much rain falls.
The ground at the Kilkenny track is heavy and officials have suggested a deluge could prove ruinous, though their Navan counterparts are less worried about the threat to Sunday's card there.
Meanwhile, Philip Fenton's star novice hurdler The Tullow Tank looks set to step up in trip come the Festival after his owner Barry Connell confirmed the Neptune Novices Hurdle is his likely target.
"I was very happy with him, he ran to a similar level as he had done in previous races," Connell said of the dual Grade One winner's defeat to Vautour on Sunday.