Elite Hurdle Tips: Sceau Royal to down Solo at Wincanton

Elite Hurdle Tips: We pick out our best bet for the Elite Hurdle at Wincanton.
Elite Hurdle Tips: We pick out our best bet for the Elite Hurdle at Wincanton.

Steve Chambers previews Saturday's Elite Hurdle at Wincanton, which could provide some notable clues for the Champion Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival...

Small fields appear to be the order of the day in the Graded contests at Wincanton on Saturday, with the Elite Hurdle only attracting six runners, and the Rising Stars Novices' Chase earlier in the card only luring just three runners. One of the talking horses of last season was Goshen, who was expected to make his hotly-anticipated return to hurdling in the aforementioned Elite Hurdle, but the four-year-old, who was last seen over timber falling at the last flight when well clear in the Triumph Hurdle, has not been declared for the Grade 2 event.

Goshen's absence has certainly made the task easier for the six declarations, and there are some proven class acts taking their chance, with the Alan King-trained Sceau Royal and the Paul Nicholls-trained Solo appearing to be the two premier contenders for a race that can offer some early season Champion Hurdle clues.

Sceau Royal has been a real stable stalwart for the King yard over the last few seasons, and having been seen competing over fences the last few seasons, the Barbury Castle in-mate looks set for a 2020/21 campaign over hurdles. The eight-year-old may not have been able to show his qualities at the highest Grade 1 level, but he has been a real solid yardstick in Graded contests throughout his career, and he will look to bag his second success in the Elite Hurdle this weekend.

Back in 2016, Sceau Royal claimed victory in the Elite Hurdle as a four-year-old, and the Simon Muir and Isaac Souede-owned gelding will look to become the first horse since Celestial Halo to win the Elite Hurdle on two occasions. Having finished last of five in the Queen Mother Champion Chase at the Cheltenham Festival in March, King elected to send Sceau Royal back over the smaller obstacles and that decision proved a masterstroke as he bounded to glory in the Welsh Champion Hurdle at Ffos Las last month.

Currently a 40/1 chance for the Champion Hurdle, Sceau Royal is unlikely to play a primary role in that Championship contest (6th in 2017 Champion Hurdle) as he has often struggled at the highest level, but this Grade 2 event appears to be a real chance for him to notch up back-to-back wins.

One huge factor for siding with Sceau Royal is the fact that he will receive 3 lb from his main market rival, Solo. Sceau Royal has proven he can produce the goods at Graded level against all ages, and with the benefit of a run he should strip fitter for his recent Ffos Las success, and at a shade of odds-against it's hard to look past the proven class act of the race.

Paul Nicholls has become a dominant force at Wincanton in recent times, and it's no surprise to see that the multiple champion trainer has won the Elite Hurdle seven times during his illustrious career. The Ditcheat handler will unleash a dual-pronged attack at this year's renewal with the abovementioned Solo and Diego du Charmil lining up on Saturday.

The former has been installed as the clear second favourite with the bookmakers, and will be another looking to throw his name into the Champion Hurdle picture. Currently a 66/1 chance for the blue riband hurdle event at the Cheltenham Festival, Solo was a really impressive juvenile last season, as he stormed to victory in the Adonis Juvenile Hurdle at Kempton Park. A dominant 13-length winner of that contest, Solo was then sent into the deep end in the Triumph Hurdle, where he started a well-fancied 4/1 shot.

However, he failed to emulate his Kempton display, as he could only finish eighth in the Triumph, so he will need to show that his Triumph flop was a flash in the pan if he is to become a genuine Champion Hurdle contender this season. While Solo could shape into a smarter prospect in the second half of the season, Sceau Royal looks a much more solid option in the Elite Hurdle, as not only will he be in receipt of 3 lb from Solo and be race fit following his Ffos Las run, but Solo still has a question mark hanging over his ability following his Triumph display, so King's market leader makes most appeal.

On the contrary, we know plenty about Diego Du Charmil, who like Sceau Royal has performed to a decent level over hurdles and fences and adds depth to the race. A runner-up in the Kingwell Hurdle at Wincanton last season, Diego Du Charmil kicked off his season last month with a third placed finish in a Listed event at Kempton Park. Well beaten by Silver Streak that day, Diego Du Charmil has turned into a horse that often runs his race, but can struggle to get his head in front. His last victory over hurdles came in 2017, when he won the Scottish County Hurdle at Musselburgh, and while he will put up a bold bid on Saturday, he will find the aforementioned duo of stablemate Solo and favourite Sceau Royal too good.

Colin Tizzard's Master Debonair, Neil King's Brandon Castle and Fergal O'Brien's Teqany complete the sextet, and realistically it's only the former of that trio that can play any sort of role in proceedings. A Grade 2-winning novice hurdler last season, Master Debonair disappointed on his last start at Ascot, when well fancied, and duly bypassed the premier novice hurdle races at the Cheltenham Festival.

Making his first trip to Wincanton, the six-year-old as shown he relishes soft and testing going, so if the dry weather hits the course in the days leading up to the race, then he could be disadvantaged by the quicker ground, and up against some battle-hardened contenders like Sceau Royal and Diego Du Charmil, he could well struggle to land a blow at the finish.

Both Brandon Castle and Teqany have some decent handicap hurdle form on their CVs, but both lack the class to figure in Graded company on recent outings, so it can be a race fought out by those at the head of the betting, and Sceau Royal can duly notch up his second Elite Hurdle win.

Selection:

Elite Hurdle, Wincanton, Saturday 7th November - back Sceau Royal at 11/10

Elite Hurdle
Sceau Royal silk

Sceau Royal

won
2021 Cheltenham Festival
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