Connections hope Champs is Gold contender

Mon 31st Dec 2012, 12:54

photoSir Des Champs
©Healy Racing Photos
Connections of Sir Des Champs retain hope he will be a major player in this season's Cheltenham Gold Cup following his staying-on fourth in the Lexus Chase at Leopardstown last week.

The Willie Mullins-trained French import is set to return to Leopardstown for the Hennessy Gold Cup in February after he was beaten just three-quarters of a length by Tidal Bay.

Eddie O'Leary, manager for owners Gigginstown House Stud, is keeping his fingers crossed a better round of jumping can see him back on the winning trail.

O'Leary said: "We were happy with how he ran. He obviously made one or two jumping mistakes and if he'd had a clear round he would have been closer.

"I think he got slightly unsighted at one or two fences, which didn't help, but overall we were happy with how he performed.

"All going well, he'll go for the Hennessy next. Let's just hope all goes well in the meantime.

"After the way he ran (in the Lexus), hopefully at this stage he still has a chance in the Gold Cup, if we can sort his jumping out."

Davy Russell partnered Sir Des Champs and admits he could have ridden him closer to the pace.

"It was a good race and we went a good, honest pace the whole way. It was a good trial for what we'll be looking forward to in March," the champion jockey told At The Races.

"He has a lot of stamina and, in hindsight, over the first three fences I maybe should have been a little bit closer and I wouldn't have depended on his jumping as much as I needed to.

"A couple of mistakes just took him out of it, but he showed good heart and stayed on well."

Gigginstown were also represented in the Lexus by the Mouse Morris-trained First Lieutenant, who ran a blinder to finish second.

"It was the best run he's ever had at this time of year. In the past he has never really run well during the winter, he's really a spring horse," said O'Leary.

"This year he seems to be running much better during the winter, so if he can improve in the spring as he has in previous years, we'll be very happy.

"He'll go straight to Cheltenham now, for either the Ryanair or the Gold Cup.

"Mouse likes to run his horses at Christmas and go straight to Cheltenham and they always go there in top condition."

Might Bite To Prove His Worth Next Season

There is not much attention given to national hunt racing in the summer months, by punters or by the media. It is, of course, understandable given that our attention is focused on the flat season: the action at Royal Ascot, the Classics and the rest of the elements that define the summer racing season. Some punters might have a dabble at an ante post bet for Cheltenham next year, but by and large we forget about it until the autumn.