10 March 2023

Churchstonewarrior primed for Cheltenham test

10 March 2023

Churchstonewarrior will head into the unknown when he runs in the Wellchild National Hunt Chase at Cheltenham on Tuesday.

The lightly-raced eight-year-old, who has had just four starts over fences, was runner-up to Gaillard Du Mesnil in a three-mile Grade One at Leopardstown over Christmas before going one better in the Grade Two Ten Up Novice Chase at Navan last month.

Jonathan Sweeney’s stable star is poised to take on the Willie Mullins-trained Gaillard Du Mesnil once more at the Festival, with connections hoping to find improvement over three miles and six furlongs after being beaten seven and a half lengths in their last meeting.

“I was very happy with his last run, couldn’t be happier. I’m looking forward to going now,” said Sweeney.

“The form of his race at Navan looks good. Three-mile-six is an unknown, but you’d imagine he’s the type of a horse who will handle that sort of distance.

“He jumped a little right on occasion last time, but I don’t think that will be an issue.”

Though his last run was his sole success over fences to date, Churchstonewarrior has not yet finished outside the first two and is a general 6-1 chance to claim Festival glory, with amateur rider James Hannon taking over in the saddle from Aidan Coleman.

You would not be confident – not at Cheltenham – you'd be just hoping for things to go right and that he'll run his race

“You would just be hoping the ground was safe. I’d have thought there would be a better chance (of softer ground) on the first day,” Sweeney added.

“You would not be confident – not at Cheltenham – you’d be just hoping for things to go right and that he’ll run his race.”

Churchstonewarrior also holds an entry in the Boylesports Irish Grand National at Fairyhouse on April 10.

Sweeney said: “He is entered in the Irish National but we will take it one day at a time. If we get to Cheltenham, we’ll have to see how things go and how we come out of it.”

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