Nigel Twiston-Davies isn’t the kind of trainer who likes to crow for no good reason, so it could prove highly significant that he is so bullish about the prospects of his Khyber Kim running a big race in the Stan James Champion Hurdle on the opening day of the Cheltenham Festival, writes Elliot Slater.
Last season’s Champion Hurdle runner-up was in action at Kempton last Saturday morning where he did a racecourse gallop over two miles alongside stable companion Astracad, after which Twiston-Davies felt that the nine-year-old was giving him all the right signals to suggest that he will be at his absolute peak on the day of the race on March 15.
A horse with more than a touch of class having been a smart performer on the Flat in his younger days when trained by Henry Candy, the Mujahid gelding has had just the one outing so far this term after suffering a delayed preparation in the first half of the season.
Returning to the fray in mid-January at Kempton’s rescheduled Christmas meeting, Khyber Kim was in touch until the third last in the Grade 1 Christmas Hurdle before being outpaced and clearly in need of the outing to blow away the cobwebs in the race won by his Cheltenham conqueror last year and reigning champion, Binocular.
On the back of that effort punters seem to have given Twiston-Davies’ charge something of the ‘cold shoulder’ and some seem to be focusing on the Champion Chase odds.
However, having seen Celestial Halo (a horse comfortably beaten by Khyber Kim on a couple of occasions last season) win the Grade 2 National Spirit Hurdle at Fontwell at the weekend, the Naunton handler is growing ever more convinced that his charge will be bang there when it matters most.
Although as short as 16/1 in some ante-post lists, Khyber Kim is still on offer with a number of other firms at 25/1.