Longshot Ted: Saldier to strike in Irish Champion Hurdle

Saldier has some top notch Grade 1-winning form on his CV.
Saldier has some top notch Grade 1-winning form on his CV.

In this week's column, Ed Quigley takes a look at the Irish Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown on Saturday, while he has an eye-catching tip in the resecheduled Cleeve Hurdle, who could turn into a Cheltenham Festival contender...

Leopardstown looks set for two cracking days of action this weekend, and a lot of eyes will be on the Irish Champion Hurdle on Saturday. Honeysuckle and Sharjah have understandably been soaking up a lot of the antepost support, but at double-figure odds, I don't think SALDIER should be dismissed from proceedings. A very talented, yet fragile individual, the impressive winner of the 2019 Morgiana Hurdle (when he had Sharjah well beaten behind), made his belated comeback in the Matheson Hurdle in December. Finishing sixth of seven on that occasion - but the literal result doesn't tell the whole story; he looked as though he would strip a lot fitter for the outing, and was very keen in the early stages.

Despite all that, he was still jumping and travelling well coming into the home straight, before the petrol light came on and he emptied in the closing stages. This is a horse with a lot of raw ability, and I expect him to be a lot straighter for that outing. With the prospect of testing ground being no issue - an arguably an inconvenience for others in this race, he could easily make his presence felt here for the Willie Mullins team, who have almost an embarrassment of riches.

Irish Champion Hurdle
Saldier silk


Cheltenham Festival Races

Paul Nicholls has been enjoying another sparkling campaign, and CHRISTOPHER WOOD can land the Scottish County Hurdle at Musselburgh on Saturday. The six-year-old has been knocking on the door in recent times, including when finishing runner-up at Kempton on his latest start in December. Showing a liking for flat tracks, he is still relatively unexposed with just the 11 starts to his name over hurdles, he produced a spectacular performance on his only previous visit to this venue when bolting up over course and distance. The cheekpieces and tongue-tie in tandem appear to have had a galvanising effect, and granted a strong gallop, he ticks a lot of the right boxes. Off a BHA mark of 143, he still has the scope to improve, and providing ground conditions don't become too testing at the East Lothian venue, then he looks a major player.

The Cleeve Hurdle has been rearranged for Wetherby this Saturday, which is great news for all concerned. If ITCHY FEET lines up, I think he can lay down a marker as a lively contender for the Stayers' Hurdle in March by landing this. The Olly Murphy-trained gelding was amongst the original entries for this race before it was abandoned due to a waterlogged track at Cheltenham. Reverting back to hurdles looks a wise move for him, as he burst a blood vessel when second to Dashel Drasher over fences on his latest start at Ascot in December. His jumping lacked fluency, so it is no surprise to see him now explore this route. He has been crying out for a step up to 3 miles, and lets not forget this horse has a lot of class - he is a Grade 1 winner over fences as a novice, and was third in the 2019 Supreme Novices' Hurdle. I'm looking forward to seeing him here.

Scottish County Hurdle
Christopher Wood silk

Christopher Wood

Cleeve Hurdle
Itchy Feet silk

Itchy Feet



Irish Champion Hurdle: Leopardstown, Saturday 6th February - back Saldier, 1pt win at 12/1 (generally)

Scottish County Hurdle: Musselburgh, Saturday 6th February - back Christopher Wood, 1pt win at 10/1 (generally)

Cleeve Hurdle: Wetherby, Saturday 6th February - back Itchy Feet to win

Cheltenham Festival Tips
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