Johnson excited about ‘unexposed’ Cheltenian in Betfair Hurdle

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Richard Johnson said he is relishing the chance to partner the returning Cheltenian in this weekend’s Betfair Hurdle.

The 2011 Champion Bumper winner has only had six runs in a career interrupted by injury but his jockey is excited about the untapped potential of his mount.

Johnson told the Racing Post:

“He’s very straightforward and Newbury is a galloping track, which I think will suit him well. He has got a lot in his favour. He’s the unexposed horse in the race and we already know he can perform at the highest level.”

Philip Hobbs’ eight-year-old was last seen when winning at prohibitive odds on New Year’s Eve at Uttoxeter, his third career win, and at 7/1 will have plenty of supporters hoping that the son of Astarabad can deliver the form that his potential has long promised.

The race has been shaken up in recent days with Paul Nicholls revealing that previous second favourite Irving will not line-up due to the likely heavy ground.

“Due to heavy ground Irving is a non-runner Saturday at Newbury. Far West will run instead,” the former champion trainer said.

The seven-time champion trainer also has the favourite, impressive Ascot winner Irish Saint in the race, priced at 5/1 as he bids to reclaim the crown he won with Zarkandar two years ago.

Nicky Henderson, who won the contest for a fifth time with leading Champion Hurdle fancy My Tent Or Yours last year saddles Rolling Star who is now the new top-weight after Thursday’s declarations.

If the Seven Barrows’ charge were to win it would be despite the heaviest weight a horse has shouldered to victory in the race since the mighty Persian War overcame a burden of 11st 13lb all the way back in 1968.

The five-year-old shares joint second favouritism at 6/1 with David Pipe’s Greatwood Hurdle winner Dell’ Arca.

All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.

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