Champion Hurdle still in mix for Sir Gerhard

Two-time Cheltenham Festival winner Sir Gerhard could still be on for a Champion Hurdle tilt but connections are split on where his next challenge lies.

The 2021 Champion Bumper stretched out to two miles and five furlongs to claim the Ballymore Novices' Hurdle at Prestbury Park this year and it was thought that the point-to-point winner's future would lie over the larger obstacles.

However, trainer Willie Mullins has confessed views in the Closutton camp are split over which direction the son of Jeremy should head this season, and a novice chasing campaign is far from certain.

He said: "I've got to have a good chat with the owners - when he won his maiden hurdle, he shaped like a Champion Hurdle horse, and he's won a point-to-point, so he can go novice chasing.

"I was a little disappointed with a couple of his runs over hurdles, where he missed out hurdles and, at the start of the season I thought I would go novice chasing with him, but the more I look at the hurdles picture, I'm tempted to stay over hurdles with him.

"I have got to chat with Mrs Thompson and Chris Richardson, the whole Cheveley Park team, and see what their views are.

"There are pros and cons and my team at home are split on it as well. Obviously, he could go novice chasing then come back over hurdles, but I definitely haven't ruled him out of a Champion Hurdle bid - we will see."

If Sir Gerhard does remain over timber, then his Closutton Arkle vacancy could be filled by Appreciate It.

The eight-year-old was an emphatic 24-length winner of the Supreme Novices' Hurdle in 2021, but ran only once the following season, when comprehensively beaten in the Champion Hurdle.

However, the time has now come for him to tackle the larger obstacles and Mullins is in no doubt that he has all the attributes to add to his Festival tally in March.

He continued: "He had a small problem and we decided not to go for the rest of the season, because when you have a novice, you want to go for a full season, not a half season.

"With the sort of speed he showed over hurdles, we would have no problem going down the Arkle route. It doesn't matter to me whether we start off at two or two-and-a-half (miles), we'll just wait for him and the right race to come along.

"I would imagine we would be aiming towards the Arkle, but it wouldn't surprise me if he went out to two-and-a-half miles, and I have no doubt he would have no problem at three miles.

"But he is very sharp at the shorter trip and if he can jump fences the way he jumps hurdles, I could see him being an Arkle horse."

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