Only a few hours after expressing quiet optimism that Grandouet might recover in time to return to essential training ahead of an intended bid for the Stan James Champion Hurdle, news has broken that trainer Nicky Henderson has admitted defeat in his battle to have the talented five-year-old ready in time to take on Hurricane Fly at the Cheltenham Festival 2012, writes Elliot Slater.
The absence of the Grade 2 StanJames.com International Hurdle winner from the showcase event has resulted in the front three in the betting all being trimmed in price. Defending champion Hurricane Fly is now generally an 8/11 chance (from 4/5), recent last-gasp Betfair Hurdle hero Zarkandar is on offer with most firms at 5/1 (from 11/2), and the 2010 champion Binocular has been cut from 6/1 to 11/2.
Henderson admitted he was disappointed but the welfare of the horse has to come first so connections of the French bred son of Al Namix will have to wait until 2013 to have a crack at the Champion Hurdle. The Seven Barrows handler went on to suggest that the Aintree Festival is also an unlikely target as the main hurdles contest there is over two-and-a-half-miles, a trip that at this stage of this career is considered too far for owner Simon Munir’s talented performer. People following the Cheltenham Festival tips will be wondering what his next move will be.
A winner three times over hurdles last season, (including the Grade 1 AES Champion 4-Y-O Hurdle at Punchestown last May), Grandouet put up a fine effort on his first visit to the Cheltenham Festival when running a big race in the Grade 1 JCB Triumph Hurdle, hitting the front approaching the final flight but then being worn down on the uphill climb to the line, eventually coming home a five-length third behind the still unbeaten Zarkandar.