NICKY Henderson expects Champion Hurdler Punjabi to improve for the run ahead of Saturday’s Boylesports.com International at Cheltenham.
Having skipped the Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle with the six-year-old, Henderson opted to give him an extra couple of weeks.
While the Seven Barrows handler believes Punjabi is ready for the race, he does believe the run will bring him on.
“He’s in good form. We swapped him and Binocular around a couple of weeks ago because he wasn’t ready to run in the Fighting Fifth, which is the route he’s taken before,” said Henderson.
“That plan backfired as far as Binocular was concerned, but I just needed another couple of weeks with him and that has gone well.
“He’s a notoriously stuffy individual but he’s done plenty of work now. I have to say I think he’ll come on for the run but he’s ready to go.
“Celestial Halo has already run this season which is a big advantage at this time of year and we all know the Champion Hurdle is in March not December, but this is a big, recognised race for this time of the year.
“He’s got to carry his Grade One penalty, but in fairness quite a few of them have,” he told At The Races.
Meanwhile Henderson expects Zaynar to be lining up in the Champion Hurdle in March, despite him running in the Unicoin Homes Relkeel Hurdle on Saturday.
Having won at Ascot over two miles and three and a half furlongs to maintain his unbeaten record over hurdles, Henderson has stepped him up in trip again by another furlong.
However, Henderson believes the Triumph Hurdle winner will be lining up with the big guns come the Festival.
“It seems the obvious race but I’m sure Alan King thinks the same for his horses (Karabak and Shalone), it’s two and a half miles for last season’s novices, it’s just a natural stepping stone,” said Henderson.
“He got the trip well at Ascot and I’ve always thought that might be his trip rather than two miles, but he’s got the speed for two miles and I would hope and think he’s got to get that back by March because I expect he’ll be dropping to two miles then,” he said.
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