Champion Still In Flame's Sights

Wed 2nd Jan 2013, 12:58

Countrywide Flame seen here winning the Triumph Hurdle
©Healy Racing Photos
Countrywide Flame remains on course for the Champion Hurdle despite meeting with defeat in Kempton's Christmas Hurdle on Boxing Day.

The impressive Triumph and Fighting Fifth winner was one of several in the contest whose chances were compromised by the pedestrian early pace but trainer John Quinn plans to keep him busy between now and the Cheltenham Festival as he bids to get back on track.

"He's not going to stay in his box until March," said Quinn, who also attributes the five-year-old's performance at Kempton to the right-handed track.

"We've had plenty of time to think about it because it's a long drive from Kempton to Malton. I asked Denis O'Regan the following day if it would have made any difference if he had made it and he said not at all - he just wasn't the same horse going right-handed.

"The last thing I would do is make excuses but it was a learning curve because going the other way he is a different machine," he told the Racing Post Weekender.

"We know he loves Cheltenham and although it's a good year for the Champion, I'm sure he'll be in the mix if he is right on the day.

"Although we haven't really discussed options, before that I would be considering the Morebattle at Kelso or the Haydock Trial. I'll also put him in the Irish Champion Hurdle."

Battaash v Lady Aurelia

Following his breath-taking four length victory in the 2017 running of the Prix de L’Abbaye, it is difficult to envisage that any horse can beat Battaash over 5 furlongs when in that sort of form. It was a stunning performance where he made Group 1 sprinters look ordinary. A field that included the Nunthorpe Stakes winner Marsha in behind. So can he confirm himself as the top sprinter around or will it be another Royal Ascot success for the American speedster Lady Aurelia when the pair clash next month? Here we look at each horses credentials heading in to one of the most anticipated clashes of the season. You can see the latest betting on Royal Ascot now in which Star Sports currently make Battaash 11/4 favourite ahead of 3/1 Lady Aurelia to win the King Stand Stakes on 19th June.

THE IRISH TIMES