Harchibald gets Kempton go-ahead

HARCHIBALD, ante-post favourite for the Smurfit Champion Hurdle, secured his passage to Kempton for the Stan James Christmas Hurdle by delighting Noel Meade in a gallop yesterday morning.

The ‘Fighting Fifth’ Hurdle winner will be given a precautionary scope before making the journey from Ireland for Sunday's contest.

Meade confessed to being delighted with the way his charge went in what he described as “pretty serious work”.

He said: “He moved well, did it very easily and pulled up well. I must say it looked a very good bit of work indeed.”

However, the trainer is mindful of the fact that he has to keep Harchibald at concert pitch for the near three-month period until the Cheltenham Festival.

He added: “I still wonder if we can keep him at this level and the jigsaw still needs to be put together as regards the Champion.

“I think the horses he beat at Newcastle still had a bit to find in terms of being Champion Hurdle class, while in the race he won at Punchestown, Back In Front was giving him weight.”

Meade concluded that Paul Carberry would ride Harchibald at Kempton.

Arcalis looks set to step up in class for the race rather than run in a novice event on the same card.

Howard Johnson is relieved that his charge does not require a great deal of work, particularly so in the light of the freezing temperatures which scuppered an important morning on the gallops yesterday.

Arcalis, unbeaten in both his starts over jumps, is likely to take on 2003 Champion Hurdle winner Rooster Booster as well as Harchibald in the Grade One contest.

There are 10 entries for the £100,000 event after Yeoman Lad was added to the original field when the race was reopened yesteday.

Johnson said: “It’s fortunate that he doesn’t need much work and if we do miss some he should be OK. He’s in great form and it would tell us just how good he is.”

Philip Hobbs is happy with Rooster Booster, who set the pace in the Bula Hurdle at Cheltenham on his latest outing but faded to finish fourth. He said: “He’s basically going down the same route as last year and is fine. I’m very pleased with him and definitely intend running him at Kempton.”

There are two Irish-trained entries, with Harchibald joined by Brave Inca, who is due to run at Leopardstown instead.

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