Champion Hurdle entries Call Me Lord and Ch’Tibello were, according to the betting, expected to fight out the finish to Wincanton’s Betway Kingwell Hurdle on Saturday, with the victor likely to earn his place in the field for the hurdling crown at the Cheltenham Festival in just over three weeks time. The latter was sent off the market leader at 6-4, a shade in front of Nicky Henderson’s impressive Sandown handicap winner at 13-8 but it was the horse quoted third best in the betting at 5-1, Elgin, who proved too good on the day for his rivals, recording a two and a half length victory over the favourite in the hands of Wayne Hutchinson.
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Already the winner of valuable handicaps at Ascot and Cheltenham this season the six-year-old does not hold an entry in the Cheltenham showpiece, a situation likely to be rectified according to trainer Alan King, who said: “ We’ll seriously have to consider supplementing Elgin for the Champion Hurdle after that performance,” a decision which would cost owner’s Elite Racing Club £20,000.
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The Paul Nicholls-trained Cliff Of Dover, having his first run since December 2016, appeared reluctant to line up but once the starter set them away the mount of Harry Derham soon developed a commanding lead, setting a scorching gallop until capitulating entering the home straight, at which point Call Me Lord was sent on. It soon became clear however that the horse travelling the best was Elgin who never looked in danger of defeat once hitting the front at the second-last hurdle.
While the result will hardly have caused a ripple in the Buveur D’Air camp who hardened as a top price 4-9 for back-to-back Champion Hurdle crowns on Tuesday 13th March, the race for the places looks wide open and it would be no surprise to see the consistent son of Duke Of Marmalade make the frame at the 25-1 available with William Hill ( money back if failing to run at the festival ).