Supreme Novices Hurdle is targeted by Cheltenian

ALL roads lead back to Cheltenham for Cheltenian, the 2011 Champion Bumper winner, who only just failed to defy a 707-day lay-off in his comeback race at Doncaster yesterday.

Despite a bold front-running ride under Richard Johnson, the seven-year-old paid the price for mistakes at the final two obstacles in his debut race over hurdles and was caught on the line by Nicky Henderson’s well-regarded Minellaforfitness.

Owned by Roger Brookhouse, who lost Shinrock Hill at Wetherby on Tuesday, Cheltenian is trained by Philip Hobbs whose wife Sarah confirmed that the William Hill Supreme Novices Hurdle is the horse’s target at the National Hunt Festival.

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“We’re delighted with him. He jumped very well and was just a bit green at the end; he didn’t know what to do by himself,” she said. “He would have needed the run but hopefully it’s on to Cheltenham now for the Supreme as long as his legs are okay in the morning – that’s the main thing.”

On a day when Sue Smith’s Grand National hope Auroras Encore fell in the veterans’ chase, the big disappointment was Tim Vaughan’s juvenile hurdler Swynmor, who could only finish third behind Somemothersdohavem.

A faller at Chepstow on his last outing, he does not appear to be a leading player for the JCB Triumph Hurdle despite the trainer’s bullishness.

Tom O’Brien will miss the Cheltenham Festival after he was hit with a 10-day suspension.

O’Brien was found guilty at Doncaster of “failing to take all reasonable and permissible measures to obtain the best possible placing” aboard Benefit Cut, who finished seventh in the SIG Insulation EBF “National Hunt” Novices’ Hurdle.

The jockey is due to be sidelined between March 6-15.

Wyck Hill, ante-post favourite for Kempton’s Racing Plus Chase on Saturday, has been purchased by top owner JP McManus.

The Cheltenham Gold Cup and Grand National entry will stay in training with David Bridgwater and is likely to be ridden by McManus’s retained jockey Tony McCoy.

The Midlands National at Uttoxeter, rather than the Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup, is the most likely next port of call for Monbeg Dude following his staying-on third at Haydock on Saturday.

Co-owned by Yorkshire rugby union legend Mike Tindall, the eight-year-old benefited from a vintage ride from Paul Carberry to get up on the line in Chepstow’s Welsh National in early January and the Irishman employed similarly patient tactics at Haydock.

Although he still holds an entry in the Gold Cup, trainer Michael Scudamore believes conditions will have to be extremely testing to let his stable star line up in the blue riband.