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Starluck Fighting Fit for Stan James-Sponsored Hurdling Target on the Road to Cheltenham 30/09/10

Starluck could head to the Grade One Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle on Saturday, November 27 en route to another crack at the Grade One Stan James Champion Hurdle at The Festival on Tuesday, March 15, 2011.

© Grossick Racing Photography


In a new five-year deal, bookmaker Stan James is sponsoring the Stan James Champion Hurdle as well as three of the season’s prime stepping stones to that Cheltenham showpiece, the Fighting Fifth Hurdle, the Grade Two International at Cheltenham on December 11 and the Grade Two Champion Hurdle Trial at Haydock on January 22.

The Alan Fleming-trained Starluck was fifth at 14/1 behind Binocular in last season’s Stan James Champion Hurdle, having failed by a short-head to snatch the Grade One Christmas Hurdle from Go Native at Kempton in December. He is currently 40/1 with Stan James to capture the hurdling crown at The Festival in March.

The high-class grey, who was fourth to Zaynar in the 2009 Grade One JCB Triumph Hurdle at The Festival, began last season with an impressive victory at The Showcase at Cheltenham in the Hurdle and was second in a soft-ground contest at Haydock prior to his Kempton effort.

Fleming revealed today: “At this moment, we are looking at the Fighting Fifth Hurdle and then the Christmas Hurdle but we have no plan yet as to where he will run before that. He just got touched off in the Christmas Hurdle last year and then ran a cracker at Cheltenham against experienced horses, so we are looking for him to just get a little bit better this season.

“If all goes well and he can continue to prove his ability to mix it with the best, we would hope to make it to the Stan James Champion Hurdle in March. There are some very good novices coming through from last year so we will have to see where we are against them.

“He was a four-year-old at the start of last season and hopefully he can improve a bit this season. It was a respectable enough run in the Stan James Champion Hurdle. He had Celestial Halo and Zaynar quite close to him, so he wasn’t out of his depth - he was holding his own.

“At Kempton he handled softer ground better last year than he would have done as a juvenile, so we are hoping he will get stronger and deal with it better as he gets older.

“He had a great time through the summer and looks stronger than he did last year. He is in real good fettle now so we are looking forward to cracking on with him.

“Starluck is a special horse for us and probably just didn’t put everything together last season. He was probably a little bit unlucky to get beat at Haydock and a little bit unlucky to get beat in the Christmas Hurdle. Then we couldn’t run him in the race we wanted to before the Champion Hurdle. I do think he is a more together horse this season.”

Go Native

Go Native
Another top-class hurdler with the Stan James Champion Hurdle as his ultimate target is last season’s Fighting Fifth Hurdle and Christmas Hurdle hero Go Native.

But Noel Meade’s charge, successful in the Grade One Neptune Investment Management Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at The Festival in 2009, will not bid for a repeat success in the Fighting Fifth Hurdle in November after picking up an injury when 10th in last season’s Stan James Champion Hurdle, for which he was the 11/4 favourite.

Meade revealed today: “The Fighting Fifth Hurdle is certainly not on the agenda because when he ran in the Stan James Champion Hurdle he injured his lower cannon bone and spent quite a bit of the summer recuperating. That meant he was late going out to grass, so he was late coming back in and he probably won’t be ready this side of Christmas.

“The vets are very happy with him at the moment and seem to think he has made a full recovery. I just wanted to give him a break because he had been in for quite a long time and I felt if we put him back in training and went on from there we might not get through the whole season.

“The Christmas Hurdle could still be on the agenda but it’s too early to say at this stage where we will start him off. Hopefully, we’ll be there at Cheltenham for the Stan James Champion Hurdle - that’s the target.”

The Stan James Champion Hurdle is the feature race at Cheltenham on day one of The Festival in 2011, Tuesday, March 15.

2011 Stan James Champion Hurdle latest odds:

3 Binocular, 5 Hurricane Fly, 14 Khyber Kim, 16 Solwhit, 16 Get Me Out Of Here, 16 Peddlers Cross, 16 Menorah, 20 Rite Of Passage, 20 Casual Conquest, 22 Go Native, 22 Dunguib, 25 Quevega, 25 Overturn, 28 Soldatino, 33 Zaynar, 33 Mille Chief, 33 Cue Card, 33 Secant Star, 33 Walkon, 33 Sanctuaire, 33 Blackstairmountain, 40 Medermit

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