THE enigmatic Grands Crus is set to return to the smaller obstacles, with owner Roger Stanley pinpointing next Thursday’s Ladbrokes World Hurdle as his Cheltenham Festival target.
The eight-year-old finished second in the race in 2011 – Tom Scudamore’s mount challenged the legendary Big Buck’s at the final flight – before embarking upon a high-profile chasing career.
Although the dashing grey won last season’s Grade One Feltham Chase, he was a very weary fourth to Bobs Worth – now installed as the Gold Cup favourite – in the RSA Chase and has undergone a wind operation and treatment for ulcers.
Grands Crus, affectionately known as ‘George’, was pulled up by Scudamore in both the Paddy Power Gold Cup and Argento Chase at Cheltenham this season, though the horse was a valiant third to Long Run in the King George VI Chase.
He worked under the watchful eye of trainer David Pipe at Exeter on Tuesday and owner Roger Stanley said: “I think that before George’s little hack around Exeter I would’ve been quite happy to miss Cheltenham and head to Aintree.
“But all that would really do is delay finding out and, anyway, the ground could also deteriorate again.
“So the thought is to go for the World Hurdle.”
After opting for the World Hurdle over the Ryanair Chase, Pipe’s Festival plans became clear when it was confirmed that Gevrey Chambertin, a full brother to Grands Crus, will line up in either the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle or the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle on Friday.
However, Stanley believes his three-time hurdles winner, who is nicknamed Geoffrey, will go for one of the latter two events.
He said: “DP says it’s up to me – either come sixth in the Albert Bartlett or first in the MP! Trainers have a way of putting things!”
This is significant, given that Pipe junior has yet to saddle the winner of the race that honours his record-breaking father.
Exciting novice chaser Goulanes will line up in the RSA Chase on Wednesday rather than the four-mile John Oaksey National Hunt Chase.
A dual winner over hurdles, the seven-year-old kept his unbeaten record intact when he made a winning debut over fences in the Towton Novices’ Chase at Wetherby last month.