Irving ‘unlikely’ to make Cheltenham Champion Hurdle bid

Irving’s participation in next month’s Stan James Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham is in doubt.

In light of the seven-year-old’s second place finish behind Blue Heron in Saturday’s Bathwick Tyres Kingwell Hurdle at Wincanton, Oscar Yeadon, assistant racing manager for owners Axom, warned a trip to the Festival to contest the opening day feature is “unlikely”.

His defeat at the weekend was his second in succession following his victory in the Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle in November after being pulled up in the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton on Boxing Day.

“Blue Heron is a decent horse and Irving got tired on the ground on Saturday, despite travelling well into the race. Even allowing for that, Cheltenham at this stage is looking unlikely. However, it has not been ruled out,” said Yeadon.

“Although the ground was not ideal on Saturday we just needed a bit more from him in the Kingwell as on his top form he is a Champion Hurdle prospect.” Irving’s trainer Paul Nicholls, writing on his website, echoed similar views as regards to his Cheltenham prospects following his weekend defeat.

“It was disappointing to see Irving put in his place by Blue Heron in the Kingwell Hurdle,” said Nicholls.

“It looked as if he got a bit tired in the ground and strictly on that performance it would make no sense to take him to Cheltenham for the Champion Hurdle. First, though, I will be talking to his owners before making a decision.”

One option Yeadon revealed could be looked into for Irving is a step up in trip.

“We are now looking at other options for him and we will just see how he works in the coming weeks,” said Yeadon.

“It is not without question that we could step him up in trip as he is by Singspiel, so it is definitely is an option we could could explore with him.”

Meanwhile Dessie Hughes is to be remembered at Cheltenham next month with the naming of the top trainer award at the Festival in his honour.

The Irish Independent Dessie Hughes Leading Trainer Award will go to the trainer who sends out the most winners during the showpiece four days in March.

Hughes, who died in November last year at the age of 71, was a major force at Cheltenham both as a jockey and as a trainer.He rode eight winners, including Monksfield in the Champion Hurdle of 1979 and Davy Lad in the Gold Cup two years earlier, and is one of an elite band to have both ridden and trained a Champion Hurdle winner.

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Join us for a special evening of Cheltenham chat on Friday March 12 at 6.30pm with racing legend and Irish Examiner columnist Ruby Walsh, Irish Examiner racing correspondent Tommy Lyons, and former champion jockey and tv presenter Mick Fitzgerald, author of Better than Sex.


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