Hobbs pair set for Cheltenham clash

PHILIP HOBBS’ two possible contenders for the Smurfit Champion Hurdle - Rooster Booster and In Contrast - are set to clash at Cheltenham on Sunday.

Both horses are 20-1 shots with William Hill for the hurdling crown next March behind 8-1 market leader Davenport Milenium when they would meet on level weights.

However, In Contrast will receive 9lb from his stable companion who is set to carry top weight of 11st 12lb in the Rehabilitation of Racehorses Hurdle (Showcase Handicap) over the Champion course and distance of an extended two miles.

‘‘Both definitely run providing everything goes all right between now and then. If they are both all right they will go,’’ said Hobbs yesterday.

And the Minehead trainer confirmed that the Champion Hurdle was on the agenda for both.

‘‘The race is very much in mind long-term as a possibility,’’ he added.

Rooster Booster was successful at last season’s Festival when he took the 21-runner Vincent O’Brien County Handicap Hurdle for his owner Terry Warner.

In Contrast ran in the Gerrard Supreme Novices’ Hurdle in which he was a highly-creditable third to Like-A-Butterfly before ending the campaign with victories at Aintree and Cheltenham for his owner Peter Emery.

Both have reappeared already this term with In Contrast finishing third to Intersky Falcon at Tipperary and Rooster Booster beating Mr Cool by seven lengths at Kempton last month.

Hobbs is hoping that the weights go up in Edward Hanmer Memorial Chase at Haydock on Sunday to persuade him to run Ever Blessed.

‘‘He’ll run at Haydock if the weights go up and he’s in the handicap otherwise probably not. If not he could go to Wincanton next Thursday,’’ said Hobbs.

The 10-year-old only joined Hobbs’ team in August from Mark Pitman’s Upper Lambourn stable.

Ever Blessed has been restricted to just two races since he won the 1999 Hennessy Cognac Gold Cup winner and was pulled up in both - the 2000 Cheltenham Gold Cup and the Great Yorkshire Chase at Doncaster last January.

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