SAPHIR Du Rheu is likely to bypass the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby on Saturday and instead run over smaller obstacles in the West Yorkshire Hurdle, the chief supporting race.
The Paul Nicholls-trained grey seemingly had the world at his feet last season after winning first time out at Carlisle, but could only finish fifth when favourite for the Hennessy.
He also has the option of the Charlie Hall and the Sodexo Gold Cup at Ascot this weekend, but he will revert back to hurdles before another tilt at the Hennessy, Newbury’s prestigious three-and-a-quarter mile handicap chase at the end of November.
It is a ploy Nicholls used with the enigmatic Tidal Bay to great effect a few years ago when owner Graham Wylie’s old favourite won at Wetherby before finishing second at Newbury.
Owner Andy Stewart said: “Saphir Du Rheu is fine and will probably go the Tidal Bay route. Paul has had a look at the races and you have got the likes of Cue Card in the Charlie Hall so I think the best option is the hurdle.
“We could not understand last season because he looked like a world beater first time out at Carlisle. We are back in the groove with him now and it will be interesting to see how he gets on at the weekend.”
Wetherby clerk of the course Jonjo Sanderson described track conditions yesterday as “fantastic” and not too dissimilar to 2014 when Menorah prevailed for jockey Richard Johnson, trainer Philip Hobbs and owners Diana and Grahame Whateley.
Like others with entries in the £100,000 race, connections do not want the ground to dry out too much.
As well as Menorah, who has been a magnificent servant down the years, the same team also hope to run Sausalito Sunrise, though both horses hold entries at Ascot on the same day in case of any rain at the Berkshire track.