Hobbs says Greatwood success vital for Menorah
The National Hunt season kicks off in earnest this weekend with The Open -- three days, each with its own distinct identity, which comprise Cheltenham's second-most important meeting of the season.
It is here that the road to the Festival in March begins and hoping to follow it to a successful conclusion in the Champion Hurdle is the Philip Hobbs-trained Menorah. The five-year-old is due to make his reappearance in the Greatwood Hurdle on Sunday.
Hobbs is, however, under no illusions about what Menorah has to do. "If he can't win a handicap off 151 he's not going to win the Champion Hurdle," he said.
He should know, having won it twice. Rooster Booster, which had won the County Hurdle the season before, won this race off a higher mark (155), on his way to winning the 2003 Champion Hurdle. Detroit City, which had won the Triumph before his 2006 Greatwood win (148), came up short in the Champion, finishing sixth.
"I'm happy with him although it is a bit of a worry that the form of the Supreme isn't working out too well (the runner-up Get Me Out Of Here, in particular, was very disappointing at Ascot recently.) It's been a good pointer to the Champion in the past," Hobbs said.
Key to Menorah, which only just failed to complete the Cheltenham-Aintree double when going down by a neck to General Miller at the latter, is a searching gallop.
Dunguib, the Irish-trained odds-on favourite for the Supreme Novice Hurdle which finished third to Menorah, is taking a slightly different route. Trainer Philip Fenton said yesterday that he will not be out until January. "We've taken the view that the second half of the season is more important than the first half," he said.
Hobbs is without a runner in The Open's feature race, the Paddy Power Gold Cup, for which 26 horses stood their ground at the five-day stage. They are headed by Nicky Henderson's favourite, Long Run. In the absence of the injured Ruby Walsh, Paul Nicholls has pencilled in Noel Fehily in for the Haldon Cup winner Tchico Polos. Fehily completed a double for the trainer at Exeter yesterday. (© Daily Telegraph, London)