12 December 2022

Knappers Hill likely to be targeted at Relkeel Hurdle

12 December 2022

Paul Nicholls has identified the Relkeel Hurdle on New Year’s Day as a likely target for Knappers Hill after the British Horseracing Authority confirmed Saturday’s International Hurdle will not be rescheduled.

The six-year-old has emerged as a potential Champion Hurdle contender this autumn, with a comeback victory in handicap company at Chepstow followed by Grade Two success in the Elite Hurdle at Wincanton.

He was due to bid for his hat-trick in the International Hurdle at Cheltenham on Saturday, but with racing abandoned at Prestbury Park, Nicholls will have to make alternative plans now the ruling body confirmed the Grade Two contest will not be saved.

The Ladbrokes Christmas Hurdle at Kempton on Boxing Day is a viable option, but Nicholls does not see much value in taking on the Nicky Henderson-trained Constitution Hill, who is odds-on for the Champion Hurdle following his spectacular reappearance in the Fighting Fifth at Newcastle.

“Saturday was frustrating because I thought we had some lovely chances. With all those horses now we’ve got to try and find something else for them,” the trainer told Betfair.

“With Knappers Hill, he could end up going in the Relkeel. There’s no point taking on Constitution Hill over two miles round Kempton and I’d say the Relkeel on New Year’s Day might suit him.”

The cancellation of Saturday’s fixture in the Cotswolds also denied Il Ridoto and Simply The Betts the chance to line up for the lucrative December Gold Cup, while Monmiral was due to run in a novice chase and Outlaw Peter a novice hurdle.

Considering plans for that quartet, Nicholls added: “Il Ridoto and Simply The Betts will go back to Cheltenham on New Year’s Day for the handicap that day and Outlaw Peter might go for the Lanzarote Hurdle (at Kempton). He’s rated 130 and I think he’s got a nice mark.

“Monmiral is entered this weekend (at Ascot), but he won’t go anywhere if the ground is fast, so he could go to Kempton the day after Boxing Day or possibly Cheltenham on New Year’s Day.”

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