Zanahiyr likely to take on Constitution Hill in Champion Hurdle
Zanahiyr, who was disqualified from third place behind Honeysuckle in last year’s Champion Hurdle after testing positive for a banned raceday substance, is set to take on Constitution Hill in this season’s renewal.
Trainer Gordon Elliott was fined £1,000 by an independent disciplinary panel of the British Horseracing Authority after a post-race urine test from Zanahiyr was found to contain 3-hydroxylidocaine, a metabolite of the local anaesthetic lidocaine, the source of which could not be established.
Elliott, speaking at the Cheltenham’s launch of the handicap weights, said he is keen to let him take his chance in the Unibet-sponsored day one feature.
He said: “We’ll probably confirm him for the Champion Hurdle and see what numbers are left in. If there are five or six runners, there is every chance he will take his chance in the Champion and we’ll ride him for a place.
“Obviously it looks a very hot race, with Constitution Hill and State Man and a few others, but our idea is we are going to go.
“We will get a look at all the weights (in other races) and see what’s what. It will probably be by the end of the week before we confirm what is going where.”
Conflated is the County Meath-based yard’s big Gold Cup hope, having landed the Savills Chase over Christmas.
He fell in last year’s Ryanair Chase, and while Elliott has no qualms about his ability to handle the course, he feels he is different to Don Cossack, who won the blue riband for Cullentra House in 2016.
He said of the nine-year-old: “We are happy with where we are and really looking forward to it now we are two weeks out – we can’t wait.
“Conflated has had a good preparation. He was very good at Leopardstown the last day and was running a good race in the Ryanair last year.
“He is in good nick. It is a competitive race but an open race and we are looking forward to running him.”
He added: “Don Cossack was probably a classier horse and a quicker horse, where Conflated is a real galloper and the trip of the Gold Cup will really suit him.
“We got him in the wrong race last year and we are really looking forward to the Gold Cup now.”
Elliott will have four runners in the Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase, spearheaded by last year’s winner Delta Work, who upset stablemate and dual Grand National winner Tiger Roll 12 months ago.
Elliott said: “Delta Work is in great form. This has been the plan since we brought him over to Cheltenham the last day.
“We are really looking forward to the race, but Galvin is going to run in the race along with Mortal and Hardline, so we are going to have four in that one.
“Delta spoiled the part last year (beating Tiger Roll) but obviously Galvin is a good horse.”
The yard appears to have a strong hand in the Pertemps Network Final Handicap Hurdle where the Gary Moore-trained Botox Has is top-weight on 12st.
Salvador Ziggy, The Bosses Oscar, Maxxum and Level Neverending are all set to run for Elliott, who said: “Maxxum didn’t get the best of runs the last day. The Bosses Oscar was second a few years ago, he obviously has a bad mark, but we are looking forward to running them.”
American Mike, who was runner-up to Facile Vega in last season’s Champion Bumper, could be a dark horse for the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle on day two, despite failing to impress on a couple of occasions subsequently.
Elliott feels he could surprise and said: “If he runs, it will be in the Ballymore.
“He has been disappointing, but I wouldn’t give him up on him just yet.”
Three Card Brag, a runaway winner of a Fairyhouse novice hurdle in January, holds several entries in handicaps, but could end up in the Albert Bartlett.
“At the moment we are kind of leaning towards the Albert Bartlett. He is a very good horse and he is going to be an exciting chaser next year.,” Elliott said.
There is no doubting the regard in which Elliott holds Mighty Potter, who is unbeaten in three starts over fences, including twice at the top level. He holds entries in both the Brown Advisory and Turners Novices’ Chase.
Asked if he could be the best he has trained, Elliott replied: “It is very hard to say. He has done nothing wrong in his career so far.
“I know it is the old saying that when you are jumping hurdles you say you are looking forward to going chasing, but with Mighty Potter it really does look the case.
“He is very good horse. We will be nervous looking at him, because we are really looking forward to him running.”
Though pulled up behind Constitution Hill in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle last year, Mighty Potter gained Grade One laurels at Punchestown and has been foot-perfect over fences this term.
Elliott added: “He blew out here last year. He made a mistake early and never got into a rhythm. Jack (Kennedy) very wisely eased up on him and saved him and we had a horse for Punchestown.
“He never really jumped a hurdle as well as he did fences.”
Asked for one horse whom he felt was his best chance in one of the Cheltenham handicaps, Elliott said: “Imagine in the Martin Pipe. If he runs, he will have a great chance.”
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