Tuesday January 17

Matt Chapman is not everyone’s cup of tea, so if you opted to give Alan’s phone-in on ATR last night with the new betting expert on ITV racing a miss then here are the salient points.

Besides outlining plans for some of our possible Cheltenham Festival runners, Alan filled in the viewers on the progress of “the walking wounded”. He said:”Obviously, everyone asks me about Uxizandre, and the good news is that his return is imminent, possibly on the last Saturday in January at either Cheltenham or Doncaster.

“You can’t just run Uxizandre anywhere as he has to go left-handed, but he’ll be entered in both the Queen Mother Champion Chase and the Ryanair Chase at Cheltenham. It’s almost two years now since he gave AP (McCoy) that never-to-be forgotten last Festival celebration in the Ryanair, so it will be great to have him back.

“JP (McManus) also owns Winter Escape, and, though he was very disappointing on his seasonal debut in the Greatwood Hurdle at Cheltenham in November, he came back very sick and it has taken a long time to get him right again. He has only just resumed fast work and, though he is in the betting for the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury next month, I suspect that will come too soon. However, we have certainly not lost faith in Winter Escape, and I still believe he will prove a high-class performer.

“Another who I hope to get on the comeback trail before the end of the season is Ord Ab Chao, who was a promising hurdler last season but got pneumonia and pleurisy and very nearly died.

“We schooled him over fences last season, but he has been off since April and it is too late now to send him novice chasing, so we will save that until next winter. I did enter him for the World Hurdle at Cheltenham, but that may be a bit too ambitious.”

Of the high-profile horses who have played their part in such a great season for Barbury, Alan added:”Two and a half miles might prove to be Yanworth‘s optimum distance, but there is no championship race for him at Cheltenham over that distance, so, with Unowhatimeanharry also being owned by JP and looking an obvious contender for the World Hurdle, we have had to revise our plans and head instead towards the Champion Hurdle.

“I have never been totally convinced that Yanworth is crying out for three miles, and he has never been beaten at two so maybe it is not such a bad thing. He dug deep and won the Christmas Hurdle in brave fashion, but Cheltenham will suit him so much better than Kempton. A stiff finish will bring out his stamina, so the Contenders Hurdle at Sandown looks the right place to go for the prep-race and we’ll take it from there.

Messire des Obeaux is also very exciting. He is 3-3 this year, having started in a handicap at Bangor and followed up with a Grade 2 and a Grade 1. He would not have the same brilliance that Yanworth showed us as a novice, but, though I can’t wait to see him over fences next season, he is a pretty smart hurdler and the Neptune looks his race. He’ll either have his dress-rehearsal at Cheltenham on Trials day or the Sidney Banks Hurdle at Huntingdon,

Sceau Royal might well join Yanworth in the Champion, depending on how he fares in the Kingwell Hurdle at Wincanton next month. For me, Sceau Royal is the forgotten horse of the race. He travelled well for a long way in the Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle but did not see his race out, and he is definitely better than that.

“He’s had a good break and is back in strong work, and, having looked very good early on as a juvenile hurdler, he never fired in the Triumph, but unfortunately March was the only month last year that my horses were not in form,

Smad Place is another who has just returned after having a break after the Hennessy. The plan is to try and win the Cotswold Chase for the second year running at Cheltenham on Saturday week, and I would imagine we’ll give the Gold Cup another shot if the ground is soft.

“More immediately, Elgin, who has been pencilled in for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, will try and make it 3-3 in a Grade 2 hurdle at Haydock on Saturday. He won really well at Kempton on Boxing Day and is now rated 145, but Haydock should go a long way to telling us whether the Festival is a realistic aim.”