Grandouet on course despite Champion Hurdle drift

Nicky Henderson insists Grandouet remains on course for the Stan James Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham on Tuesday despite taking an alarming drift on the betting exchanges yesterday afternoon.

Grandouet on course despite Champion Hurdle drift

The six-year-old was forced out of the Grade One contest 12 months ago through injury, but made a pleasing return to action in the International Hurdle at Cheltenham in December.

He has not been seen in competitive action since and did suffer a minor training setback around a month ago.

Grandouet was a significant drifter in the Champion Hurdle market on Betfair, with his price matched at 40-1 before stabilising, but Henderson did not report any problems after his charge worked in company with fellow Festival-bound stablemates yesterday morning.

Speaking at Sandown, Henderson said: “Grandouet worked on the grass in the fog with Une Artiste and River Maigue. They went a good gallop and it was all good. AP (McCoy) was also down, he rode Binocular, and Barry (Geraghty) schooled Simonsig and Riverside Theatre. They’ve virtually finished everything now.”

Henderson did, however, raise doubts about last year’s winner Finian’s Rainbow defending his crown in the Queen Mother Champion Chase on rain-softened ground.

Henderson has the red-hot favourite for the two-mile championship in the shape of Sprinter Sacre.

He said: “AP sat on Finian’s, as he would ride him if he ran in the Champion.

“But there are a lot of options and I have to talk to Michael Buckley as no-one wants to see a past champion beaten in humiliating circumstances.”

Meanwhile, owner Andy Stewart has revealed his legendary staying hurdler Big Buck’s will not run again between now and the Ladbrokes World Hurdle at next year’s Cheltenham Festival.

The Paul Nicholls-trained 10-year-old has won the staying hurdle title for the last four years, but a new champion will be crowned at Prestbury Park next week after Big Buck’s suffered a season-ending injury in mid-December.

While he could theoretically return to racecourse action early next season, and talk had been of the Long Walk at the Hennessy meeting, connections have decided Big Buck’s will not take to the racecourse again between now and next March.

“We’re not going to come back at Newbury (in November), we’re going to go straight to the World Hurdle next year and if he doesn’t like it, or doesn’t get there, he’ll be retired,” Stewart told Racing UK.

“He could run at Newbury’s Hennessy meeting or we could go for the Long Walk or we could run in the Cleeve Hurdle, but we’re not going to do that.

“Paul and I have decided, having spoken to Ruby (Walsh), we’re going to go straight for the Ladbrokes World Hurdle at the 2014 festival.”

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