Owner Terry Warner is looking forward to seeing French purchase L’Aigle Royal in action for the first time in the JCB Triumph Hurdle Trial at Cheltenham today.
Warner expects to learn a lot about the three-year-old gelding, who joined John Quinn’s North Yorkshire stable from Guillaume Macaire across the Channel.
Though L’Aigle Royal easily won on his British debut at Sedgefield a month ago, the victory told connections little about his ability as there was only one other finisher, Istimraar.
“I’ve not seen him yet,” said Warner. “We bought him in France. I hope he’s all right. We’ll know more soon enough. He won an easy race in Sedgefield, so that didn’t tell us much.”
Warner remains synonymous with Rooster Booster, who won the 2003 renewal of the blue riband Champion Hurdle.
More recently, his yellow and black colours were carried to victory by Big Easy on the Flat in Newmarket’s Betfred Cesarewitch and the seven-year-old – trained by the in-form Philip Hobbs – will not be lacking fitness in today’s Ultima Business Solutions Handicap Hurdle.
Crabbie’s Grand National hero Pineau De Re starts on the road back to Aintree by reverting to smaller obstacles at Cheltenham today.
Trainer Dr Richard Newland plans to keep the 11-year-old over hurdles before going for a repeat success over the unique fences back on Merseyside next April.
“He’s come back in great form but I’m sure he’ll need the run,” said Newland, speaking ahead of today’s Ultima Business Solutions Handicap Hurdle. “We have to start somewhere and the plan is to start here. I would imagine if everything goes to plan he’d have one more before Christmas, then maybe one January time, just depending, and then the Pertemps Final.”
Tom George hopes a return to Cheltenham will spark Module back to life in the Shloer Chase tomorrow after a lacklustre comeback run at Aintree.
The seven-year-old ran the race of his life to finish third in the Queen Mother Champion Chase but has since disappointed at Punchestown and in the Old Roan three weeks ago.
Module will sport cheek pieces for the first time in the two-mile heat in which Sire De Grugy is a notable absentee. “He’s always been a bit airy-fairy with his head so we’ve decided to put on cheek pieces,” said the Slad handler. “He’s not ungenuine by any stretch but, hopefully, they will help him concentrate.”
Jockey Paul Townend believes Champagne Fever can develop into a Cheltenham Gold Cup contender after the horse made a sparkling reappearance in the Clonmel Oil Chase on Thursday.
Though the Willie Mullins-trained horse was beaten in the final stride of this year’s Arkle Trophy by the fast finishing Western Warhorse, Champagne Fever already has two National Hunt Festival wins to his name.
The horse’s next race is set to be the William Hill King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day.
“He’s won at Cheltenham a couple of times, he’s got class and he’s tough,” said Townend. “He seems to have all the attributes of a Gold Cup horse.”
Runaway November Handicap winner Open Eagle is set to embark upon a career over hurdles this winter after joining Ireland’s champion trainer Willie Mullins.
The five-year-old, who won the traditional end-of-season highlight in the Doncaster mud last Saturday by a wide-margin 12 lengths for Nawton trainer David O’Meara and jockey Danny Tudhope, has now been snapped up by the Supreme Horse Racing Club.
Racing manager Steve Massey said: “We’re delighted to get hold of such a quality horse. He showed he obviously handles soft ground really well, which bodes well for his future in Ireland. Hopefully, there are some exciting times ahead.”