The connections of both Magnifique Etoile and Prospect Wells, both beaten a long way by Captain Conan and Colour Squadron in the Grade 1 Tolworth Hurdle at Sandown on January 7, are reconsidering their options after failing to be involved on the finish of what turned out to be a very dramatic contest, writes Elliot Slater.
Magnifique Etoile had hacked up on his two previous hurdles outings at Bangor and Stratford and Charlie Longsdon’s charge held every chance at the third last before failing to quicken with the front pair, eventually coming home a 13-length third as the front two charted very different courses to the wining line. Longsdon was not at all dissatisfied with the performance of his five-year-old and will keep his Cheltenham options open, the Supreme Novices Hurdle being one possible race although the Oxfordshire handler considers his horse fairly well handicapped off 136 for the County Hurdle, a race for which he is currently quoted at 16/1 in the ante-post lists. People placing an online Cheltenham bet should remember this.
For his part champion trainer Paul Nicholls admitted that it had been a mistake to run Prospect Wells so soon after his battling close fourth place finish behind Raya Star in the Ladbroke Hurdle at Ascot in December, but the horse had outwardly shown no signs of suffering any fatigue. The son of Saddlers Wells was never travelling particularly strongly under Ruby Walsh and was beaten before the third last, a run that clearly was too bad to be true having shown smart form on his four previous outings this term.
A 14/1 joint-favourite for the County Hurdle at present, Nicholls charge is now out to 25/1 for the Supreme Novices Hurdle having been as short as 12/1 prior to his Sandown disappointment. He will now be rested until the Cheltenham Festival.