Friday, December 11, 2009

Celestial Halo takes on Punjabi at Cheltenham

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Celestial Halo takes on Punjabi at Cheltenham


A fascinating renewal on Saturday of the International Hurdle features the winner and runner-up of last season's Champion Hurdle. looks at the event at Cheltenham:

In March, the Nicky Henderson-trained outsider Punjabi held off Celestial Halo, from the Paul Nicholls yard.

But Celestial Halo is odds-on favourite for Saturday's big race at Cheltenham.
Punjabi has been off the racecourse since May, whereas his rival won by an impressive 10 lengths on his seasonal bow at Wincanton last month.
Horse -1
Henderson believes Punjabi, who will be ridden by Barry Geraghty, might be in need of the run when he returns to the course where he stunned 26 rivals last spring, landing odds of 22-1.
He wasn't ready to run in the Fighting Fifth, which is the route he's taken before, but he's in good form. I just needed another couple of weeks with him and that has gone well.

"He's a notoriously stuffy individual but he's done plenty of work now. I have to say I think he'll come on for the run but he's ready to go.

"Celestial Halo has already run this season which is a big advantage at this time of year and we all know the Champion Hurdle is in March not December, but this is a big, recognised race for this time of the year.

"He's got to carry his Grade One penalty, but in fairness quite a few of them have."

Sired by Derby winner Galileo, Celestial Halo, still just five, had his first big win when landing Cheltenham's Triumph Hurdle in March 2008 - and is bound to benefit from Ruby Walsh's supreme riding skills.

And with Nicholls having enticed fine performances from star chasers Kauto Star and Denman in recent weeks it is no surprise he is such a warm order in the betting.

Of the other runners, Medermit, trained by Alan King, is the one likeliest to stop this being a straight duel. He was beaten by a tiny margin in last season's Triumph Hurdle and rarely runs a disappointing race. Robert Thornton rides him.

William Hill prices (to open an account click here)

Celestial Halo 8/11

Punjabi 9/4

Medermit 6/1

Khyber Kim 8/1

Ashkazar 14/1

Cape Tribulation 33/1

Ebadiyan 33/1

Songe 50/1

Oslot 100/1

Secret Dancer 100/1 Betting Recommendation:

There is absolutely no point in looking past Celestial Halo in this race and he is certain to be one of the weekend's big gambles. He wasn't expected to be at his best on his first run of the season at Wincanton last month but still managed to win by 10 lengths. He will be even better on Saturday on a course he loves. Punjabi, on the other hand, will come on for the run and his trainer would surely admit his charge can't win this race against a horse as in-form and classy as the favourite. Take the 8/11 on Celestial Halo and bet to maximum stakes.

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