Boychuk a festival doubt

Boychuk appears ever more certain to be pulled out of next week’s Royal & SunAlliance Chase, unless the ground dries up significantly at Cheltenham.

Boychuk appears ever more certain to be pulled out of next week’s Royal & SunAlliance Chase, unless the ground dries up significantly at Cheltenham.

Philip Hobbs’ consistent performer is a 25-1 shot for the race, having outpointed the useful Gungadu at Newbury in November, but has not been seen since an outing at Kempton on Boxing Day.

“Boychuk definitely doesn’t want the ground too soft and he’s likely to be a non-runner,” said Hobbs.

“It’s a shame because everyone was saying the turn-out was only going to be a few runners.

“If it’s good to soft, he’ll run, but if it’s soft he won’t.

“There is Aintree but they tend to water the ground there and he’s much better on good.”

A number of the Somerset trainer’s possible Cheltenham runners have a definite preference for faster conditions, such as JCB Triumph Hurdle hope Liberate.

He won his first two hurdle starts since transferring from Sir Mark Prescott’s stable but also has not raced since a defeat on Boxing Day.

Hobbs added: “He would ideally not want it too soft. He’s only raced on good to soft so far, but Richard Johnson says he’d be much better on better ground.

“He will take his chance and maybe a test of stamina will help.

“The Irish filly, Lounaos, will probably be a short price but ours would have a good each-way chance.

“Either way, he has a good future, either as a novice chaser or a handicap hurdler.”

Several others are big doubts to head to the meeting if the going is soft, including Champion Bumper hope, Snap Tie, and Lacdoudal, whose main aim remains achieving back-to-back victories in the Betfred Gold Cup at Sandown in April.

Massini’s Maguire is likely to head for the Ballymore Properties Novices’ Hurdle, while Hobbs appears quite enthusiastic about the chances of his new recruit Oscatello.

“He was with Ian Williams before and he is entered in the Coral Cup, where he’ll probably go,” said Hobbs.

“I hope he will run very well – he beat Turko last season and could have a nice weight in the race.”

Of his old stager, Monkerhostin, Hobbs reported: “He’s never been lame but has had a few niggly problems this season.

“Even when he was not right, he was still fourth in the King George.

“We’ve left him in the Gold Cup but he won’t run if it is softer than good to soft.”

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