Solwhit a doubt for Champion, admits Byrnes
For jump trainers, this is the longest week of the year. There are now seven days to go until the start of the Cheltenham festival, seven long days for something to go wrong.
For Charles Byrnes the bell has already tolled; the Champion Hurdle joint-favourite Solwhit has picked up an infection and there are now strong doubts about his participation in the opening-day showpiece.
An examination yesterday revealed the problem. "He has scoped dirty," Byrnes said, "and he'll have to go on antibiotics until Thursday, so things are very much in the balance.
"The plan had been for him to travel over to England on Saturday morning," Byrnes added, "but that will have to be put on hold. He is not definitely out of the Champion Hurdle. There has to be a serious doubt about him running."
Solwhit had been as short as 7/2, vying for favouritism with Go Native. He has been eased to 5/1 in most bookmakers' lists (he drifted to as much as 29/1 on the Betfair exchange before settling at 13/1). Others have been clipped in line; Go Native is clear favourite at 3/1, last year's winner Punjabi 6/1, Zaynar 13/2 and Starluck 12/1.
The doubt over Solwhit, though, has not moved Philip Fenton from his decision to keep star rookie Dunguib among his peers in the Supreme Novices' Hurdle, for which he is odds-on. The seven-year-old is still among the entries for the Champion Hurdle, but will be removed at tomorrow's penultimate confirmation stage.
If he does take on his seniors this season, it will be on home ground. "If all goes well in the Supreme," said the Co Tipperary trainer, "the plan is to pitch him in against the big guns at Punchestown." (© Independent News Service)