My Tent Or Yours delivers at Newbury but Champion Hurdle place unlikely

CHAMPION jockey AP McCoy believes connections will resist the temptation to pitch My Tent Or Yours into next month’s Champion Hurdle after the top novice’s stirring weight-carrying victory at Newbury.

My Tent Or Yours ridden by A.P. McCoy

The top prospect is owned by JP McManus and trainer Nicky Henderson who lost Champion contender Darlan to a fatal final flight fall at Doncaster exactly a week ago, and McCoy’s voice was still raw with emotion after this five-length win in the Betfair Hurdle.

The richest handicap hurdle in this country, Martin Pipe’s Make A Stand won the corresponding race in 1997 before winning the Champion under a bold front-running ride by McCoy when the jockey was at the outset of his record-breaking career which has yielded over 3,800 triumphs and counting.

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McCoy signalled that the Supreme Novices Hurdle would be the Cheltenham target for the six-year-old My Tent Or Yours who is now favourite for the Festival curtain-raiser, usurping the McManus-owned Jezki in the ante-post betting.

Given that the latter – trained by Jessica Harrington – was previously regarded as one of Ireland’s best hopes for Festival glory, one of the great talking points over the next four weeks will be McCoy’s choice of ride in the race.

The jockey actually persuaded McManus to buy My Tent Or Yours earlier in the season. “To win a handicap off 149 is a good performance. He’s a good horse. I thought that the first day I sat on him. I schooled him and I said to Nicky that there’s only one thing wrong with this horse – he’s in the wrong colours,” said an emotional rider.

Though the McManus, McCoy and Henderson team still have Binocular, the 2010 Champion Hurdle winner, in Cheltenham contention, a mud-splattered My Tent Or Yours was so far clear that the jockey could glance over at the trackside big screen to admire the action of a horse who is a steeplechaser in the making.

The biggest challenge to My Tent Or Yours could come from Melodic Rendezvous who was a very impressive winner at Exeter yesterday under in-form Nick Scholfield. This horse, trained by Jeremy Scott, is no mug – in beating Oliver Sherwood’s well-regarded Puffin Billy, Melodic Rendezvous was showing that his Grade One win in Sandown’s Tolworth Hurdle was no fluke. At the age of seven, he is also more mature than many of his rivals.

On a weekend of significant Cheltenham trials and clues, Silviniaco Conti won the Betfair Denman Chase in a professional manner when conceding four pounds – and five lengths – to last year’s Gold Cup runner-up The Giant Bolster.

However, Paul Nicholls believes his seven-year-old, who was not race-sharp after a mid-season break, will have to improve again if he’s to win Cheltenham’s blue riband race.

Significantly, Nicholls says his rising star must make the forward strides that he showed between winning Wetherby’s Charlie Hall Chase in early November and the Grade One Betfair Chase at Haydock three weeks later.

The most striking Gold Cup trial came in Ireland when Sir Des Champs saw off the challenge of Flemenstar to win the Grade One Hennessy Gold Cup under Davy Russell, who served his riding apprenticeship at the North Yorkshire yard of Ferdy Murphy.

Unlike Silviniaco Conti who missed Cheltenham last year, Sir Des Champs has winning Festival form – he won the Martin Pipe Hurdle in 2011 before taking the Jewson Novices’ Chase last year.

He’s now 4-1 second favourite behind Henderson’s Bobs Worth. Sir Des Champs is trained by Willie Mullins and runs in the colours of the Gigginstown House Stud, part of Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary’s empire.

The reason Walsh does not ride Sir Des Champs, despite his association with the Mullins yard, is because Gigginstown retains Russell’s services as No 1 rider.

Mullins said: “He’s been to Cheltenham twice and he loves the place. He loves that hill.”

As for Flemenstar, his farmer-cum-trainer Peter Casey will have to show some humility and run Flemenstar in the Ryanair Chase over two-and-a-half miles, a contest that he has derided in the past. His stable star simply does not stay three miles-plus and may not have the speed to take on the precocious Sprinter Sacre in the Queen Mother Champion Chase.

This was a red-letter day at Leopardstown for Mullins whose Champagne Fever won the top novice hurdle – while Boston Bob was a last-gasp winner of the novice chase. Both were ridden by Paul Townend who is Ruby Walsh’s understudy in Ireland.

As well as partnering Silviniaco Conti, Walsh also partnered the John Hales-owned Unioniste to a battling win in Newbury’s novice chase. However neither Unioniste, nor Boston Bob, were sufficiently impressive to unduly worry connections of Dynaste, the clear favourite for the RSA Chase. Today’s Catterick card must pass an early morning inspection because of snow.