Grands Crus steers clear of ‘hard race’ ahead of Festival

Grands Crus
Grands Crus
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Unbeaten novice chaser Grands Crus, a leading Gold Cup contender and one of the most exciting horses in steeplechasing, will miss tomorrow’s Argento Chase at Cheltenham after connections decided to sidestep the Grade Two heat.

The seven-year-old grey impressed when winning the Feltham Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day, and trainer David Pipe had been mulling a step up to full company this weekend.

However, Pipe says the horse’s long-term prospects come first rather than a clash in a Gold Cup trial against the likes of Captain Chris and Time For Rupert, two of last season’s leading novices, and Lord Oaksey’s Hennessy hero Carruthers.

“We’ve decided we don’t want to give him a hard race with Cheltenham just around the corner in March,” he said.

Grands Crus proved second only to Big Buck’s in the staying hurdle ranks last term and has won his first three races over fences with effortless ease under jockey Tom Scudamore, prompting connections to consider the Gold Cup rather than the RSA Chase – the three-mile championship race at the Cheltenham Festival for novice chasers.

Pipe is now considering a Festival prep run at Newbury on February 11, although he will not be taking on reigning Gold Cup Long Run in the Betfair Denman Chase.

He said: “He could run at Newbury on February 11, Betfair Trophy day, in a three-mile novice chase, not in the Denman. The horse is absolutely fine, though, we just decided not to run.”

Grands Crus is a best-priced 7-2 favourite for the RSA Chase at Cheltenham, but he is also as low as 6-1 with some firms for the Gold Cup itself.

With Grands Crus ruled out, the King George third Captain Chris is the new 11-4 favourite with Coral for the Argento Chase.

Meanwhile Pipe’s other top novice, Notus De La Tour, has been confirmed as an intended runner in Sunday’s Frank Ward Solicitors Arkle Novice Chase at Leopardstown.

The six-year-old will be making his second trip to Ireland after chasing home Blackstairmountain in a Grade One event at this track over Christmas.

Winner of two of his previous three starts over fences in Britain, he is on course to contest the two mile Arkle Trophy at the Cheltenham Festival.

Jockey Jockey Dominic Elsworth feels Somersby would be well served stepping back up in trip at the Cheltenham Festival by running in the Ryanair Chase.

Henrietta Knight’s likeable eight-year-old secured the big-race victory his consistent efforts deserved when claiming the Victor Chandler Chase at Ascot on Saturday.

Somersby also has the two-mile Queen Mother Champion Chase as a possible Festival objective, but his regular jockey believes he will be best served in the Ryanair over two miles and five furlongs.

“Over two miles he can miss a jump out here and there,” said Guiseley-born Elsworth, who was securing his first Grade One winner.

“He does stay, and he’s got the pace to lay it up to them over two and a half miles. He can miss a fence now and again and obviously Ascot being a bigger, longer, galloping track definitely played to his strengths He’s as good as anything else in the Ryanair.”