Trainer David Pipe has revealed that Moon Racer, winner of the 2015 Weatherbys Champion Bumper and vying for ante-post favouritism for the Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, will instead attempt to become the first novice hurdler since the turn of the Millennium to win the Stan James Champion Hurdle.
An evidently fragile horse, having only raced six times under rules at the age of eight, connections have been swayed to target the championship hurdling showpiece.
A winner of his two starts this season at Perth where he beat subsequent Betfair Hurdle winner Ballyandy by three-quarters of a length and at Cheltenham in the Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle by two and a quarter lengths, the son of Saffron Walden has looked very smart over timber.
A general 9/1 shot for the Champion Hurdle, Pipe’s charge despite his novice status would seem to have a good chance of running a big race in what looks a very open yet competitive edition of the two-mile event. Tom Scudamore will ride the gelding who will bid to emulate Make A Stand, who in 1997, when trained by David’s father Martin Pipe, was the last novice to win the event.
Explaining the decision Pipe said:
We wouldn’t be running unless we thought it was an open race. If Faugheen was in it or something like that then we wouldn’t be running in the race and he may well be back next year. Will we be sound and ready to go next year? Nobody knows the answer to these questions so that’s the way we’ve gone.
He hasn’t got as much experience as other horses in the race having only run six times but it will be a smaller field than the Supreme − there are so many pros and cons. He has shown he can cope with a strong pace before in winning the Champion Bumper and he’s been away round Wincanton, schooling round there the same way the Irish horses have been schooling after racing.
Jockey Scudamore, who will ride in his first Champion Hurdle since 2008, commented:
I schooled him around Wincanton in the week and he was very professional and slick at his hurdles. He did everything I could have asked. For a horse who has had only a couple of runs over hurdles he is very mature and he should thrive on the challenge of the Champion. It doesn’t matter whether it is a Supreme or the Champion in either race jumping is at a premium as they will go a decent clip. Field sizes make no odds to him – he has won the Champion Bumper in a big field round there and handled the atmosphere.
I am not sure there is any such thing as a bad Champion Hurdle but it’s open and many of the runners at the beginning of the season weren’t being talked of as Champion Hurdle horses and probably not their yard’s number one. But it’s still going to be a high-quality race.