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Honeysuckle and Epatante promise Champion Hurdle to savour

Honeysuckle bids to dethrone Epatante in a mouthwatering clash for the Unibet Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham.

The market for the feature event on day one of the Festival is dominated by the two top-class mares, with Henry de Bromhead’s Honeysuckle just about edging favouritism off the back of a scintillating display in last month’s Irish Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown.

That dominant victory saw the seven-year-old stretch her unbeaten record to double figures, leaving connections with a mixture of expectant nerves and excitement for her biggest assignment yet.

CheHoneysuckle at Cheltenham on Sunday morningltenham Festival Gallops – March 14th
Honeysuckle at Cheltenham on Sunday morning (David Davies/PA)

Peter Molony, racing manager for Honeysuckle’s owner Kenny Alexander, said: “She arrived in Cheltenham on Saturday night and travelled well, so we’ll keep our fingers crossed.

“I do get desperately nervous, but if you’re not pumped up for this you’re not going to get pumped up for anything.

“She’s an amazing mare, and we’re very lucky to be in this position, so we may as well enjoy it.”

Honeysuckle already has a Festival win on her CV, having outgunned Benie Des Dieux in an epic Mares’ Hurdle 12 months ago.

The daughter of Sulamani was made to pull out all the stops when successfully defending her crown in the Hatton’s Grace at Fairyhouse on her first start of the current campaign, but raised her game significantly when powering clear of her Irish Champion rivals.

“She was incredible in Leopardstown,” added Molony.

“It’s well documented Henry didn’t have her fit enough for her first run of the season in the Hatton’s Grace – she blew up for the first time in her life in a race.

“Henry mentioned the other day that he thinks she’s still improving. If that is right, and we can get her there at the best of her ability on Tuesday, it will be very exciting.”

A huge part of the Honeysuckle story is jockey Rachael Blackmore, who bids to become the first female jockey in history to ride a Champion Hurdle winner.

Honeysuckle and Rachael Blackmore have formed a formidable partnership
Honeysuckle and Rachael Blackmore have formed a formidable partnership (PA)

Molony has nothing but praise for the rider, saying: “It sounds a funny thing to say, but it’s almost like people have forgotten she’s a woman at this stage – she can hold her own with any man.

“She’s so balanced, and horses run so well for her and jump so well for her, and she’s got a fantastic tactical brain.

“She’s got all the attributes – she’s fantastic.”

Honeysuckle produced many of her best performance over longer distances, so De Bromhead was thrilled to see her prove she can be just as effective over two miles last time out.

The Knockeen-based trainer, who also saddles Aspire Tower, said: “She looks very effective over anything really. All the judges say her last day was her best performance so far.

“Aspire Tower ran really well to finish second at Leopardstown at Christmas, and we decided to go straight to the Champion Hurdle.

“I’m very happy with him. He’s in great form, and we’ve put him away for Cheltenham.”

Epatante provided trainer Nicky Henderson with his eighth Champion Hurdle success last season – and owner JP McManus with his ninth.

She looked as good as ever on her seasonal reappearance in the Fighting Fifth at Newcastle in November, but returns to the Cotswolds with something to prove after suffering a shock defeat when bidding for back-to-back wins in Christmas Hurdle at Kempton on Boxing Day.

Nicky Henderson with Champion Hurdle heroine Epatante
Nicky Henderson with Champion Hurdle heroine Epatante (David Davies/PA)

Henderson said: “She as very impressive in the Fighting Fifth. She picked up Sceau Royal after the last and went past him with so much class.

“She wasn’t herself at Kempton – but fair play to Silver Streak, who was very good on the day. He set a proper test, and at no stage were we in a position to have a crack at him.

“I think we’re back in the right place now.”

The Evan Williams-trained Silver Streak is once again in opposition, having finished third and sixth in the last two Champion Hurdles, but the biggest threat to the two mares could be Gary Moore’s Goshen.

The five-year-old was set for a wide-margin win in the Triumph Hurdle at last year’s Festival before his agonising exit at the final obstacle.

He was then beaten twice on the Flat in the autumn, and finished stone last in Cheltenham’s International Hurdle in December, but bounced back with a wide-margin success in the Kingwell Hurdle at Wincanton on his latest outing.

Moore said: “He seems in good order. I’m very happy with him. He’s done everything right this morning (Monday), so it’s all systems go.

“There will be loads of pace. He doesn’t have to make the running. They can do that for him if they want. It’s down to Jamie (Moore).

“We’re 100 per cent ready to go.”

Willie Mullins runs last year’s runner-up Sharjah, as well as Saldier and intriguing French recruit James Du Berlais.

The former has 19 lengths to make up on Honeysuckle on their meeting in the Irish Champion, a race he also disappointed in last season before raising his game at Cheltenham.

Sharjah needs to bounce back to form
Sharjah needs to bounce back to form (PA)

Mullins said: “I don’t know what it is about the Irish Champion Hurdle with Sharjah – it maybe comes too soon for him after Christmas.

“The better the ground the better his chance, and if we can just adjust tactics this year it might make the difference.”

Of James Du Berlais, he added: “He had a very busy season in France last year, and was bought by Simon (Munir) and Isaac (Souede) as a novice chaser – but it’s a long time to wait, so we put him in training.

“I was happy to run him somewhere and I’m not going to run him in the Stayers’ Hurdle. I said ‘let’s run him in the Champion Hurdle and let him have a go there’, rather than do nothing the whole spring.”

Denise Foster’s Abacadabras and the Hughie Morrison-trained Not So Sleepy are the other hopefuls.

Frodon and Paisley Park among those that offer Festival cheer

It has been a tough few weeks for racing, with the sport shaken to its core by the Gordon Elliott case. However, the show must go on and the Cheltenham Festival can give racing reason to smile again, with the Cotswold jamboree never failing to ignite the senses.

It will be a different Festival this year, with no crowds and strict Covid protocols in place, but we pinpoint five horses that could put racing back in the headlines for all the right reasons:

Honeysuckle

Honeysuckle and Rachael Blackmore have developed into a dream team
Honeysuckle and Rachael Blackmore have developed into a dream team (PA)

Rachael Blackmore has every chance of smashing through the final barrier for female riders with victory aboard the unbeaten Honeysuckle in the Unibet Champion Hurdle on the opening day. Blackmore dished out a tactical masterclass when steering Honeysuckle to Mares’ Hurdle glory last year, and the dynamic duo’s Irish Champion Hurdle domination last month showed just how close the rider could be to a landmark win in one of National Hunt racing’s showpiece events.

Goshen

Goshen and Jamie Moore suffered heartbreak at last year's Festival
Goshen and Jamie Moore suffered an agonising last-flight mishap at the 2020 Festival (Simon Cooper/PA)

No one could forget the terrible misfortune that befell Goshen and Jamie Moore in last year’s Triumph Hurdle, when a freak incident at the last – with Goshen’s shoes catching after jumping the final obstacle – brought the rider crashing to the ground when wide-margin victory had seemed in the bag. Neither horse nor jockey has had it easy through this campaign either – with Goshen struggling for form before roaring back at Wincanton, while Moore has had the dual challenge of recovering from a broken back as his wife Lucie underwent treatment for cancer. Victory for them both would be a heartening good-news story we could all enjoy.

First Flow

First Flow goes for gold in the Champion Chase
First Flow goes for gold in the Champion Chase (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

It was a long time between drinks for Kim Bailey before First Flow struck Grade One gold at Ascot in January. The trainer had last hit the heights at the top level some 26 years ago, when he enjoyed a dream Festival – winning both the Champion Hurdle with Alderbrook and the Cheltenham Gold Cup with Master Oats. The fact owner Tony Solomons has been with Bailey for 40 years adds an extra layer to what would be a fairytale strike in the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase. Throw in the fearless riding style of jockey David Bass, and First Flow’s remarkable rise through the ranks from slipshod handicapper to prolific winner, and it is fair to say roofs will be raised in living rooms nationwide one side of the Irish Sea at least if they can somehow get the job done against the might of Chacun Pour Soi.

Paisley Park

Paisley Park will try to regain his Stayers' Hurdle crown
Paisley Park will try to regain his Stayers’ Hurdle crown (David Davies/PA)

A heart problem proved Paisley Park’s undoing when he tried for back-to-back Paddy Power Stayers’ Hurdle titles last year, but Emma Lavelle’s charge has bounced back in style. He will not be renewing battle with Thyme Hill, with his rival a late injury absentee. That richly-anticipated showdown will have to wait for another day. Paisley Park’s owner Andrew Gemmell – who was born blind – was a joy to behold when his star won this race in 2019, and while we will not be able to share his excitement in the same way, it would be another special victory.

Frodon

Frodon and Bryony Frost have already tasted Festival glory together
Frodon and Bryony Frost have already tasted Festival glory together (David Davies/PA)

Bryony Frost and Frodon are like salt and vinegar on chips – they just go together. The pair’s Ryanair Chase success of two years ago saw racing make the main news bulletins and front pages, so just imagine what attention victory in the WellChild Cheltenham Gold Cup would produce. Frost and Frodon broke new ground with their King George win at Christmas – and although they appear up against it with hat-trick seeker Al Boum Photo, a Gold Cup win for this pair could be just the rehabilitation racing’s reputation needs.

Goshen in top shape following brilliant Kingwell return

Gary Moore is counting down the days to the Unibet Champion Hurdle after Goshen returned to form in some style with a wide-margin victory in the Kingwell Hurdle.

The five-year-old accounted for Coral Hurdle and International Hurdle scorer Song For Someone by 22 lengths, as he blitzed the opposition at Wincanton on Saturday.

There is less than three weeks to the two-mile showpiece at the Cheltenham Festival, in which Goshen will bid to erase the frustration of his dramatic final-flight exit in the Triumph Hurdle last year when he had the race at his mercy.

“He’s come out of his race very well,” said West Sussex-based Moore on Wednesday.

“We’ll just do what we do and hopefully keep him on track for Cheltenham.

“I’ve done nothing with him. He’s just gone out for a jog around the place and nice easy exercise. He’s taking it all well and seems in good order. I’m very pleased with him.”

Stablemate Fifty Ball could well have booked his place at the Festival too, after beating all bar Soaring Glory in the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury on Sunday.

The six-year-old put up a career-best performance in the one of the most competitive handicap hurdles on the calendar.

Moore has to decide which of his three entries – Sky Bet Supreme Novices’, Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle and County Hurdle – Fifty Ball will take up.

“It would have been better if he’d have won, but he could not do any more than run the race of his life,” he said.

“I did expect him to run a big race, but I didn’t know if he was up to that company. He was just beaten by maybe a better horse on the day.

“He’s in a couple of novices and he’s in a handicap at Cheltenham. He could well end up there, but I don’t know which race at the moment.”

Goshen roars back into Champion Hurdle picture

Goshen reignited his Champion Hurdle claims with an impressive victory in the Betway Kingwell Hurdle at Wincanton.

Out of luck after falling at the final flight with the Triumph Hurdle at his mercy 12 months ago, Gary Moore’s five-year-old blew the opposition away with a devastating display as he returned to his best form of last season.

He settled well for Jamie Moore, who allowed Navajo Pass to give him a lead until the business end of the race.

Kicking on after jumping three from home, the 100-30 victor quickly put daylight between himself and his rivals.

Song For Someone, the 11-10 favourite, appeared to struggle to compete with the early pace, but came through to finish a never-nearer second – 22 lengths behind the easy winner. Navajo Pass was third.

Goshen was cut to 5-1 from 16-1 for the Champion Hurdle with Paddy Power, and to the same price with Coral from 20-1.

Moore senior said: “I was very pleased, over the moon.

“I didn’t know what to expect. I knew I had him in a good place and fair play to Jamie. He told me when he worked him on Tuesday he would win.

“I was just hoping he would do what he has done today.

“It has to be the Champion Hurdle next. It has always been the target since last year. We’re hoping we can go there with every chance.

“Hopefully there’s a little bit of improvement to come from him.

“He settled lovely today. He doesn’t have to make the running, He just wants his own space.”

Jamie Moore suffered heartbreak with Goshen at Cheltenham last year
Jamie Moore suffered heartbreak with Goshen at Cheltenham last year (Simon Cooper/PA)

Equally thrilled was the winning jockey, who said: “It was a very rewarding performance. Just pleased to get him somewhere near his best for dad and the owners.

“We wouldn’t have run him if we didn’t think he was right. His last bit of work on Tuesday was very good and we’ve been happy with him. We wanted to go to Sandown a couple of weeks ago and it was called off. It’s good we’ve got a run into him.

“Dad has tried a different training regime with the horse and it’s worked. The horse has enjoyed it and we’ve got him fit in different ways.”

The jockey knows more still might be needed at Cheltenham, however.

“We’re going to look forward to the Champion Hurdle, but it’s going to be no easy task,” he said.

“Epatante didn’t run great at Kempton, but it shows horses aren’t machines. Goshen came back today and she could come back at Cheltenham.

“We’re going to wait and hope he’s in good form on the day.”

Navajo Pass tests credentials again in Kingwell

Donald McCain is keen to discover whether Navajo Pass can back up his surprise Haydock victory in Wincanton’s Betway Kingwell Hurdle.

Sean Quinlan steered Navajo Pass to an all-the-way success as the outsider of three in Grade Two company last time out, winning by four and a quarter lengths from dual Champion Hurdle hero Buveur D’Air.

Saturday’s Wincanton feature is another Grade Two event, and McCain believes a good run will solidify the five-year-old’s form from Merseyside.

Navajo Pass, ridden by Sean Quinlan, on his way to winning The New One Unibet Hurdle
Navajo Pass, ridden by Sean Quinlan, on his way to winning The New One Unibet Hurdle (David Davies/PA)

“He’s in good nick – we’re going to go for it,” said the Cheshire trainer.

“We were delighted with Haydock, and it’s the obvious next race for him – there are no other races for him, to be honest.

“We’ll go and take a punt and we’ll see.”

McCain is mindful that Buveur D’Air’s run in The New One Hurdle was his first after a 420-day break – and he will hold off on making spring Festival plans until after this weekend.

“You could question the form at Haydock, so we’ll see if that stacks up before we worry about anything else,” he said.

“We’re always looking to go somewhere in the spring, but he is still a young horse.”

Song For Someone, last year’s Kingwell winner, also lines up in Somerset.

Tom Symond's Song For Someone
Tom Symond’s Song For Someone (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

The Tom Symonds-trained six-year-old was a half-length winner of the 2020 renewal, which was relocated to Kempton after Storm Dennis left Wincanton unable to host the meeting.

That victory was the first of a current three-race unbeaten spell for the chestnut, who this season has won the Coral Hurdle at Ascot and the International Hurdle at Cheltenham – both of which are Grade Twos.

Symonds expects this weekend’s rivals to pose an even greater challenge, but hopes his stable star can continue his ascent and smooth a path to one of the big spring hurdle prizes.

“Fingers crossed, he’s in good form,” he said.

“We’re really pleased with how he’s been since the International, but he’s got to step up again and give his penalties away.

“He’s really well, but it’s going to be hard work for all of them in the ground. It will be interesting to see how he goes against Navajo Pass – and with Goshen running again, we’re looking forward to it.

“Provided the script is read right then we’ll look at either Cheltenham or Aintree in the spring, but we’ll see what happens here first really. That’s how we’ll go forward with him.”

Song For Someone (left) and Goshen (right) during the Unibet International Hurdle at Cheltenham
Song For Someone (left) and Goshen (right) during the Unibet International Hurdle at Cheltenham (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Gary Moore’s Goshen will also take his chance as a tilt at Cheltenham’s Champion Hurdle hangs in the balance.

The five-year-old looked a runaway winner of the Triumph Hurdle last season when unseating Jamie Moore at the last flight, but has struggled to rediscover his best form in three subsequent runs – the first two of which were on the Flat.

As Song For Someone triumphed in the International Hurdle in December, Goshen made his hurdling return but appeared out of sorts when finishing a near 30-length last of 10.

In the aftermath he was reported to be suffering from a fibrillating heart, but Moore has now clarified that was not the case.

“He never did have a fibrillating heart,” he said.

“That was a misunderstanding, so we can forget that. It was a mix-up in conversation.”

Cheltenham still remains the target – but a below-par Kingwell run could see that plan altered.

“We hope he’ll go very well – he’s very well at home,” said Moore.

“Saturday will tell us everything, unless there’s plenty of excuses.

“The next step will hopefully be the Champion Hurdle, but if he doesn’t give a good account of himself at the weekend, then we’ll have to think of something else.”

Completing the field are Paul Nicholls’ Friend Or Foe, William de Best-Turner’s outsider Calgary Tiger and Evan Williams’ Esprit Du Large – who reverts to hurdles after experiencing mixed fortunes during a spell over fences.

Kingwell looming as next appearance for Goshen

Goshen and Song For Someone could both be rerouted to the Kingwell Hurdle at Wincanton following the abandonment of the hurdle races at Sandown on Saturday.

The Gary Moore-trained Goshen was found to be suffering from a fibrillating heart when disappointing as the hot favourite for the International Hurdle at Cheltenham in December, a race won by Tom Symonds’ stable star Song For Someone.

The pair looked set to renew rivalry in the Listed Contenders Hurdle this weekend – and while the weather has scuppered those plans, the rematch may only be delayed rather than cancelled, with both trainers identifying the Kingwell Hurdle on February 20 as a possible alternative.

Goshen suffered a dramatic exit in last season's Triumph Hurdle
Goshen suffered a dramatic exit in last season’s Triumph Hurdle (Simon Cooper/PA)

Moore said: “It’s disappointing we won’t be going to Sandown, but the ground must be bad for them to call the hurdle races off this early.

“It’s been a nightmare of a season for him (Goshen) really.

“The Kingwell Hurdle has got to be the next option, then if that doesn’t happen, you’re looking at the National Spirit at Fontwell the following Sunday (February 28).

“Fontwell wouldn’t be perfect as it’s getting close to Cheltenham, but I want to find out if he’s good enough to go to Cheltenham, more than anything. I can’t really go to Cheltenham off the back of what he’s done this season, but I might have to.

“He’s had no season really, but I am very happy with him at the moment.”

Song For Someone won the rescheduled Kingwell Hurdle at Kempton last season and has continued in the same vein this term, winning the Coral Hurdle at Ascot prior to his narrow victory over Silver Streak at Cheltenham.

Like Moore, Symonds is keen to get another run into his charge ahead of a possible bid for Champion Hurdle glory in March.

Song For Someone is making his mark this season
Song For Someone is making his mark this season (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

“We had three options – the Champion Hurdle Trial at Haydock, which we avoided, the Contenders at Sandown, which has been taken out of our hands and the next one on the list is the Kingwell,” said the Herefordshire-based trainer.

“I’ve just been discussing it with the owners and there are only four races left for him to run in this season, really – you’ve got the Kingwell, the National Spirit, the Champion Hurdle and the Aintree Hurdle.

“We’ll probably take in two of those, if all goes well and he’s well.

“It’s annoying he can’t go to Sandown, but I’d rather ring the owners with bad news about the ground than the horse.”

Asked whether Song For Someone could head straight to the Champion Hurdle, Symonds added: “It’s a possibility, but we were hoping to run him somewhere again beforehand.

“We don’t want to wait for Aintree and then the ground comes up firm. I know it’s unlikely that would be the case.

“We’ll just have to see what happens over the next couple of weeks. It’s frustrating, but there’s nothing we can do about it.”

Nassalam on course for Cheltenham’s Triumph Trial

Nassalam is to put his Festival credentials on the line in the JCB Triumph Hurdle Trial at Cheltenham this month.

The four-year-old lost his unbeaten record in Britain when runner-up to Adagio in the Finale Juvenile Hurdle at Chepstow on Saturday, but trainer Gary Moore was delighted with the performance and the way Nassalam has taken the race.

The French import was sent off evens favourite for the Grade One after two wide-margin victories against vastly inferior opposition at Fontwell – and he just fell narrowly short on his steep rise in class.

“He’s come out of the race very well indeed. I’m very pleased the way he’s come out of it,” said his West Sussex trainer.

“It was a massive step up to what he’d done. The ground would have been quick enough for us. I think we’d be a bit better on softer ground.

“When they go round Chepstow in three minutes 56 seconds it’s not heavy ground, and our horse is probably more suited to heavy ground.

“It’s all a learning curve. It’s the first time he’s a been in a battle. He never raced on the Flat, and his wins have been uncompetitive.

“I was delighted. He just got beat by a better horse on the day.

“He’ll probably go for the Trial at Cheltenham (on January 30) as long as the ground is soft.”

Moore reports his Champion Hurdle hope Goshen, meanwhile, on course for Sandown next month.

Goshen was found to have a fibrillating heart when last of 10 in the International Hurdle at Cheltenham in December, on his first run back over jumps since coming down at the final flight when holding a big lead in the Triumph in March.

“He’s on target for Sandown (Contenders’ Hurdle on February 6), very much so,” said Moore.

Goshen is likely to be back in action at Sandown next month
Goshen is likely to be back in action at Sandown next month (Bradley Collyer/PA)

“His work is good. I couldn’t be more pleased with him.”

Goshen is owned by Steven Packham, whose colours could be carried by Fifty Ball in the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury next month.

The six-year-old is on a hat-trick after winning the last two of his four starts at Ascot and Sandown since he joined the Moore stable from France.

“He goes for the Betfair Hurdle. That will be his next run,” said the trainer.

Trainer Gary Moore is happy with Goshen ahead of his intended reappearance at Sandown
Trainer Gary Moore is happy with Goshen ahead of his intended reappearance at Sandown (Simon Cooper/PA)

“He was impressive at Sandown. I’m not sure how the race has turned out, but I know his previous run at Ascot was quite good.”

Benatar may line up next in the Matchbook Betting Exchange Clarence House Chase at Ascot on January 23 – depending how the field for the two-mile one-furlong Grade One takes shape at the five-day confirmation stage.

There were just 12 initial entries, and Moore would consider running the nine-year-old if he had a fair chance of picking up some prize money.

Benatar (near side) is a possible for the Clarence House Chase at Ascot
Benatar (near side) is a possible for the Clarence House Chase at Ascot (Steve Parsons/PA)

Benatar was a very encouraging third in the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup at Cheltenham last month, on his first start since January 2019.

“I will see what the five-day entries are like for the Clarence House,” said Moore.

“If he’s got a chance of nicking third or fourth prize he might run there. If not I’ll save him for something else.”

“We’ll look at the five-day stage and see what’s in it.

“It might cut up. Generally these two-mile races are cutting up.”

Goshen given Contenders Hurdle target at Sandown

Gary Moore has his sights on Sandown in February for Goshen after withdrawing the four-year-old from the Ladbrokes Christmas Hurdle at the final declaration stage.

The West Sussex handler felt the Kempton Grade One would come too soon for Goshen, who was found to have a fibrillating heart when disappointing in the International Hurdle at Cheltenham.

The four-year-old was the hot favourite on his first appearance over obstacles since his final-flight mishap in the Triumph Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival in March, but trailed home last of the 10 runners, after which the heart issue was discovered.

Moore is now looking at the Contenders Hurdle at the Esher track on February 6.

“He’s fine, but he’s not ready to run at Kempton,” he said.

“Sandown in February is where he’s going next.”

Goshen ‘absolutely fine’ following International disappointment

Gary Moore remains hopeful Goshen can still prove himself a top-class performer after he was found to be suffering from a fibrillating heart following his disappointing effort in Saturday’s International Hurdle at Cheltenham.

The four-year-old was the hot favourite on his first appearance over obstacles since his heartbreaking final-flight mishap in the Triumph Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival in March, but trailed home last of the 10 runners, after which the heart issue was discovered.

Speaking on Racing TV’s Luck On Sunday programme, Moore said: “He’s absolutely fine. He ate up last night and has been out for an hour this morning – he seems quite happy.

“My vet is coming in to check him out. I’ve been training a long time and this is the third or fourth time that it’s happened to me.

“I think you just give them a bit of time. You wouldn’t know there was a problem this morning.”

While the heart problem was likely the chief reason for Goshen’s below-par performance, Moore also feels he also hindered by an interrupted preparation, a change of tactics and the fact three of the eight hurdles were omitted.

He added: “It was a mess of a race. The first two hurdles were gone and the horse was over-racing. There was a lot of disappointment yesterday, but we learnt one thing – don’t restrain the horse, let him use his stride and let him get on with it.

“I think he gets claustrophobic and doesn’t want to be right amongst horses – he doesn’t like being crowded. We tried to hold him up and it was the wrong thing to do.

“We’ll take it a day at a time. He didn’t have a great preparation going into Saturday – he’s had niggly problems all the way through. I think he might have needed the race – it was like his first run of the season as far as I’m concerned.

“I’ll see how he is in the next few days and how this heart issue is, but we won’t write him off for the season, definitely not.

“He’s very special and has his own way of doing things.”

Moore sets sights set on International mission for Goshen

Gary Moore is “desperate” to run Goshen in Saturday’s Unibet International Hurdle at Cheltenham.

It will mean a return to the scene of his unseating of Jamie Moore at the Cheltenham Festival in March, when the Triumph Hurdle was all but won.

Goshen had been in the frame to run in the Elite Hurdle at Wincanton in early November and then the Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle, but missed both engagements and Moore accepts time is now getting on.

Moore said: “We’re really looking to it, he’s been very good the last few weeks.

“He had a little school this morning, in the indoor school, and he was very quick and accurate and I couldn’t be happier.

“People were quite rude about his jumping before Cheltenham, but I was convinced it would be fine and it was – apart from what happened at the last and that was just a freak accident. Otherwise he was spot on at everything.

“We’ll see if our grass is good enough to work on in the morning and if it is he’ll do his last piece of work. He’ll be scoped afterwards and all being well he’ll head to Cheltenham.”

Goshen's back leg catches his front leg in the Triumph Hurdle, giving Jamie Moore no chance
Goshen’s back leg catches his front leg in the Triumph Hurdle, giving Jamie Moore no chance (Simon Cooper/PA)

Goshen has been back on the Flat since he last ran over hurdles and having won his previous three outings in that sphere he was a short-priced favourite at both Haydock and Goodwood but was beaten both times.

“I just felt the Wincanton (Elite) race was coming a bit too quick after Goodwood, where he harder a harder race than I would have liked him to have done,” said Moore, speaking on a call hosted by Great British Racing on Monday.

“After that he just wasn’t quite himself. The week of the Newcastle race his work wasn’t A1 and his scope wasn’t perfect.

“It’s been very frustrating, for the owners especially, but I don’t want to run a horse who isn’t 110 per cent right in top-class races.

“I’m desperate to get to Cheltenham, the only way he wouldn’t run is if he’s not well or there is firm in the going description.”

Moore has tasted Cheltenham Festival glory in the Champion Chase with Sire De Grugy, but admits Goshen is already the best hurdler he has trained.

“He’s the best hurdler I’ve had, obviously Sire De Grugy was a very good horse but he wouldn’t have been as good over hurdles as this lad, he was always going to be a chaser,” said Moore.

“With this lad I’d be in no rush to go over fences unless he wasn’t good enough to hold his own in a Champion Hurdle and other big races.”

Jamie Moore was devastated after the mishap in the Triumph Hurdle
Jamie Moore was devastated after the mishap in the Triumph Hurdle (Simon Cooper/PA)

Goshen’s mishap in the Triumph will be the abiding memory of the Festival for many, but the trainer himself has long moved on.

“We won’t be thinking of what he did in the Triumph. I’m quite old now, but I’ve never seen any horse do what he did before in all the time I’ve been racing,” said Moore.

“Dan Skelton was the only person I’ve spoken to since who said he’d seen it happen. It was just a freak thing.

“We’ve messed about with his shoes, but I can’t believe it would happen again. We just make sure there’s no overhang on the shoes as his back foot caught his front foot. We just make sure there’s nothing to get hooked on.

“It’s been spoken about too much, it’s boring me now. It was just a freak accident and I’ve completely put it out of my mind.”

Goshen is ridden by Moore’s son, Jamie, not long back from a serious injury and who was among the winners at Sandown on Friday and Saturday.

“Jamie has got his eye back in again which is good as it was worrying me that he would have to ride Goshen in a big race before he was back at his best, but he’s got his confidence back now,” said Moore.

“It was the second time he’d broken his back, and he broke it in four places. I wasn’t sure if he would come back. He’s had his first fall since coming back and he was fine afterwards so that’s a relief.

“As long as he runs, they’ll have him to beat. If he can’t win on Saturday he shouldn’t be going for the Champion Hurdle.”

Ch’tibello leads eventual winner Call Me Lord over the last at Cheltenham 12 months ago
Ch’tibello leads eventual winner Call Me Lord over the last at Cheltenham 12 months ago (David Davies/PA)

Goshen is one of 10 entries for the Grade Two feature this weekend, with Elite winner and Fighting Fifth Hurdle runner-up Sceau Royal in contention for Alan King.

Call Me Lord took top honours last season for Nicky Henderson and could clash once more with runner-up Ballyandy (Nigel Twiston-Davies) third-placed Ch’Tibello (Dan Skelton). Henderson is also represented by the smart mare Verdana Blue.

Evan Williams will be hoping for better luck with Silver Streak, who was carried out at the second hurdle at Newcastle, while the Tom Symonds-trained Song For Someone will be bidding to follow up his Coral Hurdle success from Ascot.

Stormy Ireland (Paul Nicholls) and Summerville Boy (Tom George) complete the list of possibles.

International assignment on the cards for Goshen

Goshen is set to make his seasonal debut over jumps in the International Hurdle at Cheltenham next month after being taken out of the Fighting Fifth Hurdle at the five-day confirmation stage.

Trainer Gary Moore has decided to wait for the Grade Two contest on December 12 rather than go to Newcastle.

It means Goshen will return to Cheltenham, the scene of his dramatic final-flight exit in the Triumph Hurdle in March.

“Everything’s fine. There’s nothing wrong,” said Moore.

“Hopefully we’ll see him in the International. We’ve decided to wait for that.

“I’m very happy with him so far.”

Goshen has had two runs on the Flat this autumn, but has since been a late withdrawal from the Elite Hurdle at Wincanton due to a combination of a bad scope and unsuitable ground, while the four-year-old was not declared for the Coral Hurdle at Ascot at the weekend.

Moore considering options for Ascot absentee Goshen

Gary Moore will take stock over the next few days on a new target for Goshen after he was a surprise absentee from the declarations for the Coral Hurdle at Ascot on Saturday.

So unfortunate in the Triumph Hurdle at Cheltenham in March, the four-year-old had been due to make his return over obstacles in the Grade Two contest after a couple of Flat outings.

Moore said: “His scope wasn’t perfect this morning and you can’t run a horse when their scope isn’t perfect.

“If we can get him clean in time we’ll look at the Fighting Fifth up at Newcastle (November 28), but that is less than two weeks away and he’s going to have to have a few easy days now.

“If he’s not ready for that, then it will have to be the International at Cheltenham (December 12).”

That leaves Laurina, who went off a 5-2 chance for the 2019 Champion Hurdle when trained by Willie Mullins, as the headline act in a three-runner affair.

She was among a group of horses owner Jared Sullivan moved from Ireland to Paul Nicholls’ yard over the summer, but she has questions to answer after a disappointing campaign last term, both over fences and hurdles.

Taking her on are Nicky Henderson’s Call Me Lord and the Tom Symmonds-trained Song For Someone.

Real Steel, Imperial Aura, Itchy Feet and Black Corton face off in a fascinating renewal of the Chanelle Pharma 1965 Chase.

Real Steel, another of the Sullivan horses to switch to Nicholls, was last seen finishing sixth in the Cheltenham Gold Cup in March.

Imperial Aura has been on a steep upward curve for the in-form Kim Bailey, winning a handicap at the Festival and barely putting a foot wrong in the Colin Parker Memorial at Carlisle on his return to action.

Bailey shunned last week’s Paddy Power Gold Cup to step him up to Grade Two class instead.

Itchy Feet was a Grade One winner as a novice last season – a first for trainer Olly Murphy – but he was an early casualty in the Marsh Novices’ Chase in March.

He was a respectable third in the Old Roan at Aintree, giving weight to all but one of his rivals, on his reappearance.

The Nicholls-trained Black Corton is without a win since April 2019, but has run plenty of good races in defeat for regular rider Bryony Frost and goes well at Ascot.

Goshen may head to Ascot after Elite absence

Goshen could be rerouted to Ascot later this month after a combination of unsuitable ground and an imperfect scope ruled him out of the Unibet Elite Hurdle at Wincanton.

Trainer Gary Moore had earmarked Saturday’s Grade Two as a first outing over obstacles for Goshen since his unlucky unseating of rider Jamie Moore at the final flight when in a commanding lead in the Triumph Hurdle back in March.

Goshen has had two outings on the Flat in recent weeks. But the Wincanton ground – which is described as good, good to soft in places – and a minor health issue means the four-year-old may be seen next in the Coral Hurdle at Ascot on November 21.

He said: “The ground wasn’t ideal, and everything with the horse is fine – but his scope wasn’t perfect, so we will get that right now.

“It’s nothing serious, and we’ll have a look at the Ascot Hurdle.”

Joshua Moore was due to partner Goshen at Wincanton in place of his brother Jamie, who is still recovering after fracturing his sternum and back in a fall at Fontwell in August.

Gary Moore reports his son to be progressing well – but when asked if Jamie could be fit to ride at Ascot, he added: “That will be the doctor’s decision, not mine or Jamie’s.

“He’s doing fantastically well, but you’ve got to respect a very serious injury like that.”

Goshen was one of three not declared for Wincanton’s feature race, along with Ballyandy and Song For Someone – which leaves six contenders including Paul Nicholls’ Solo, who reappears following a disappointing Cheltenham effort back in March.

A 10-length winner of the Adonis Juvenile Hurdle on his British bow at Kempton in February, Solo could finish only eighth in the Triumph Hurdle at the Festival.

He is the pick of stable jockey Harry Cobden, leaving Bryony Frost to team up with Nicholls’ other runner Diego Du Charmil – who was third on his return at Kempton last month.

Master Debonair was an impressive winner of an Ascot Grade Two on his third hurdles outing last term, but Colin Tizzard’s charge has been off the track since disappointing in his Festival prep run in February – with connections deciding to head straight to Aintree, which was subsequently cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Sceau Royal won this race in 2016 and is back again for Alan King, with victory in the Welsh Champion Hurdle at Ffos Las already in the bag this term.

Teqany won twice in September but was a length and a quarter behind Diego Du Charmil when fourth at Kempton, with Neil King’s Brandon Castle completing the line up.

Joshua Moore all set to partner Goshen for first time

Joshua Moore is relishing the opportunity to partner Goshen for the first time in the Unibet Elite Hurdle at Wincanton.

Trained by the jockey’s father Gary, the Authorized gelding is set to make his first appearance over obstacles since his heart-breaking final-flight exit when seemingly set to run out a wide-margin winner of the Triumph Hurdle at Cheltenham in March.

Goshen has run twice on the Flat since returning from a break, finishing a disappointing last of six on his comeback at Haydock before faring a little better in third behind Natural History at Goodwood last month.

Jamie Moore has been on board for each of his four previous outings over hurdles – but as he is currently sidelined by injury, his younger brother Joshua will take over in the saddle for Saturday’s Grade Two feature.

“He seems to have come good in himself again, having had the two runs on the Flat,” said Goshen’s new jockey.

“Any rain will be welcome, because the ground at Wincanton has been quite lively this season – hopefully they’ll get some of the rain that has been about, so they get a bit of nice ground.

“I’ve ridden him at home over the last couple of seasons and schooled him at home – and I’m very happy with him.

“In the Triumph Hurdle he jumped brilliantly the whole way round bar the last, where he had a good look at it. His jumping is something that doesn’t worry me.”

Goshen is one of nine entries for the Elite Hurdle, with the Paul Nicholls-trained pair of Diego Du Charmil and Solo, Alan King’s Sceau Royal and Colin Tizzard’s Master Debonair among his potential rivals.

The other Grade Two on the card is the ‘Rising Stars’ Novices’ Chase, which has attracted five high-class contenders.

If The Cap Fits is on course for his second chase start at Wincanton
If The Cap Fits is on course for his second chase start at Wincanton (David Davies/PA)

Harry Fry’s If The Cap Fits and Tizzard’s Fiddlerontheroof could renew rivalry, after finishing first and second respectively on their chasing debuts at Ffos Las last month.

Ga Law (Jamie Snowden), Grand Sancy (Nicholls) and Hurricane Harvey (Fergal O’Brien) are the other hopefuls.

The Nicholls-trained Present Man is set to bid for a third win in the Badger Beers Silver Trophy. He is one of 23 entries for a £48,000 contest his trainer has already won 10 times.

Newbury target for Botox Has following winning return

Gary Moore is targeting Botox Has at the Gerry Feilden Hurdle at Newbury next month following his victory at Cheltenham on Saturday.

The four-year-old overcame a 315-day absence to score for the third time in four starts since joining the Moore team from France.

“I was expecting a big run. He’s come back well and I’m very pleased with him,” said Moore on Sunday.

“He ate up last night and walked out sound this morning so we live to fight another day.

“I’d say his next race would be the Gerry Feilden at the Hennessy meeting at Newbury towards the end November.

“The aim last season had been to go to Liverpool after he had won at Cheltenham in December, but then we had the pandemic so that was that.”

Moore reports his other exciting young prospect Goshen to be heading for the Elite Hurdle at Wincanton November 7, as long as there is enough cut in the ground.

Goshen was successful on his first four starts over hurdles last term, before his winning streak came to an end in dramatic fashion in the Triumph at Cheltenham when he exited at the final flight with the race at his mercy.

Goshen about to unseat Jamie Moore after making a hash of the final flight in the JCB Triumph Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival
Goshen about to unseat Jamie Moore after making a hash of the final flight in the JCB Triumph Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival (Simon Cooper/PA)

He has been beaten in two races on the Flat this autumn, but Moore feels his latest run was better than he was given credit for in some quarters.

“He’s fine. He goes to the Elite if we get some rain. Wincanton seems to be dodging the rain at the moment,” said the West Sussex handler.

“He wasn’t beaten far by a horse (Natural History) that was runner-up in a Group Three on Saturday (St Simon Stakes at Newbury), so perhaps his run on the Flat the other day (at Goodwood) wasn’t quite as bad as everyone thought it was.”

Moore will send his two highly-promising four-year-olds their separate ways for the time being.

“I’ll keep them apart,” he said. “Whether Botox Has is up to Goshen’s level, I don’t know. I’d like to think he is, but he’ll have to jump up a fair bit.”