Cheltenham Festival News

Sporting John's Festival race will be determined by ground, says Hobbs

Wed 17 Feb 2021

Philip Hobbs says that ground conditions will determine which route the Virgin Bet Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase winner Sporting John takes at next month’s Cheltenham Festival.

Sporting John will either contest the Marsh Novices’ Chase over 2m 4f or step up to three miles for the first time in his career in the Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase, after the Minehead handler decided to take him out of the Sporting Life Arkle Novices’ Chase.

The JP McManus-owned six year old finished down the field in last season’s Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle at The Festival but, after finishing third on his debut over fences at Exeter, made his return to Grade One company a triumphant one in the Scilly Isles at Sandown Park earlier this month.

Hobbs said: “We’ve taken Sporting John out of the Arkle and he will either now run in the Marsh or what was the RSA. It will all depend on what the ground conditions are like.

“If the ground was very soft you would stick to two and a half in the Marsh but if it wasn’t you would probably look at going further with him.

“It was obviously very pleasing to see him win like he did and warm to the task at Sandown as it shows he is going in the right direction.”

Sporting John is a best-priced 12-1 for the Narsgh Chase, and is 16-1 for the Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase.

One horse definitely heading for the Marsh Chase is Chatham Street Lad after connections took the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup winner out of his four other Festival engagements.

Trainer Michael Winters has removed the nine-year-old from the Sporting Life Arkle Trophy, the Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase, the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase and the Ryanair to concentrate solely on the the Grade One novice chase over two and a half miles.

Winters is bringing Chatham Street Lad back to his peak after giving him a break following a defeat at Fairyhouse last month.

“He’s not out of the Marsh. He’s still in that one. That’s the race the owners want to run in,” said the County Cork handler on Wednesday. “He had a good break and we’ve taken him to the beach today to freshen him up.

“He’d had quite a bit of racing and he slightly disappointed the last day so we thought we’d freshen him up for Cheltenham.

“He cantered on the beach and in the water and he’s had some physio. He’s thriving. There were a lot of small things the last day. If we are going to run a good race the next day we are going to have to be 100 per cent.

“That’s what we’re aiming for and we think he has a good chance. We’d like to see plenty of rain in England.”

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