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Dunguib honed for Cheltenham

Philip Fenton is taking nothing for granted as he prepares his exceptional novice Dunguib for the Cheltenham Festival.

Last season's Weatherbys Champion Bumper hero is hot favourite for the Supreme Novices' Hurdle after winning all his three races over timber so far in impressive fashion.

Dunguib had a short break after taking the Grade One Royal Bond Novice Hurdle at Fairyhouse last month and is set to warm up for Cheltenham in March by running in the Deloitte Novice Hurdle at Leopardstown on February 7.

"He's in brilliant form and he has had a little time off since he last ran, but he's been back riding out properly in the last fortnight and he is extremely fresh and well," said the Co Tipperary trainer, who again reiterated his reluctance to reroute to the Champion Hurdle.

"We didn't run him over Christmas as the important ones are in February and March, so he won't appear until February 7 at Leopardstown and the Supreme Novices' at Cheltenham is his main aim.

"We'll be taking nothing for granted. First of all he has to get there and secondly I'm sure there will be plenty of opposition.

"Our horse has to go there and prove it, but we are looking forward to it."

Dunguib is a general 6/4 shot for the Supreme Novices' Hurdle.

Whodoyouthink could be on course for a clash with Dunguib following a convincing victory at Leopardstown on St Stephen's Day.

The lightly-raced five-year-old put his rivals to the sword in a maiden hurdle, coming home 22 lengths clear of his closest pursuer.

And connections now feel he has earned the right to be considered for the Deloitte Hurdle.

"We were impressed with him and he's a horse for the future," said trainer Oliver McKiernan's assistant Adrian Keatley. "It wasn't a surprise that he won, but it was a surprise in the fashion he won.

"When he was beaten early on in the season on heavy ground in Punchestown we thought we'd set out to go to Leopardstown at Christmas for a maiden hurdle and then maybe step him up.

"We are contemplating the Deloitte Hurdle and he is a course and distance winner, but if the ground was very heavy he might not run.

"He did a fair time and he deserves to take his chance in a race like that."

Tony McCoy was left stiff and sore but apparently not badly injured after a nasty fall at Plumpton.

The champion jockey looked to have landed on his shoulder and was kicked as he came off Teeming Rain in the feature At The Races Sussex National.

McCoy had to be helped into the Sussex track's medical room after being taken off the course by ambulance, but walked slowly out of the weighing room to return home less than an hour later.

"I got kicked everywhere, to be honest, but I'll be fine," he said.

Ferdy Murphy hopes to get his Queen Mother Champion Chase hope Kalahari King back on the course at Doncaster next month.

Last year's Arkle Trophy runner-up and Aintree Grade One winner has yet to make his seasonal debut after suffering a setback. However, he is back on track now and Murphy is targeting the Flying Scotsman Handicap Chase over an extended two miles at Doncaster on February 6.

"He's good and we've got him back on track and he goes to Doncaster for a run there," said the trainer. "It's an open handicap, there's nowhere else for him to go really.

"He had a splint and it just flared up. He had X-rays and scans and nothing showed up, then lo and behold he threw one (a splint). You wouldn't think at his age he'd get one, but it was just one of those things. Hopefully he'll get to Doncaster and we'll make more plans after that."

Kalahari King is a top-priced 10/1 for the Champion Chase at the Cheltenham Festival.

Andy Stewart is looking forward to seeing Big Buck's attempt to retain his Ladbrokes World Hurdle crown.

The highest-rated hurdler in training will go straight to Cheltenham after his win over Karabak and Diamond Harry in the rearranged Long Walk Hurdle at Newbury

"We have decided to miss the Cleeve and go straight for the World Hurdle," said Stewart.

"He is a strange horse. He doesn't do a tap in front and he is never going to win by much further than the three or four lengths he won the other day.

"It was very testing ground and that is the reason we are going to give him a little break. We'll go back and see if we can retain the title."


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