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Cheltenham: A must-win for Menorah

Philip Hobbs provided a masked message that last season's top novice Menorah would have to win Sunday's Greatwood Hurdle at Cheltenham if he is to hold realistic claims for landing the Champion Hurdle at the same course next March.

At his press day yesterday, Hobbs put up Menorah as his £250 charity bet and was laid 8-1 to successfully defy top weight and a mark of 151 in the feature race of the final day of Cheltenham's Open meeting.

At the same time, bookies removed Hobbs' other entry Nearby from their lists owing to the trainer's concerns about the likelihood of testing ground.

Assessing the task faced by Menorah, Hobbs observed: “He's very well and I'm very happy with him, although it's a bit of a worry that his form isn't working out too well.

“He's only five, and I'm looking forward to running him in the Greatwood. It's been a good pointer to the Champion Hurdle in the past and if he can't win a handicap off 151 then he won't win the Champion Hurdle.

“He's a very genuine horse that does need a strong pace and he should get that on Sunday. The blips in his form last season came in falsely-run races.”

Revealing that the much-improved Nearby would miss the race, Hobbs went on: “I can't see him running as I don't think soft ground at Cheltenham will suit him.

“He went up 9lb for his Newbury win and would only be 4lb well-in on Sunday, so it's not the end of the world.

“The trouble is, there's nothing handicap-wise for him until the totesport Trophy and that's in February.

“I entered him for the Fighting Fifth, so he might have to run outside his class.”

Hobbs will run Captain Chris in a novice chase at Cheltenham on Sunday, and will equip the talented gelding with a tongue-tie.

He explained: “The reason for his defeat at Chepstow was mainly down to his breathing and I'll put a tongue-tie on him.

“He schooled very well over our fences the other day and he's ready for a different discipline, coming back to two miles.”

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