Connections of the promising first-season hurdler Vulcanite have announced that they will send the formerly useful Flat racer to contest the Grade 1 William Hill Supreme Novices Hurdle, the opening race on the first day of the four-day Cheltenham Festival which begins March 13, in preference to contesting the County Hurdle at the end of the fixture, writes Elliot Slater .
The Charlie Longsdon-trained five-year-old, a winner five times on the Flat and rated a highly respectable 103, had been as short as 12/1 in the ante-post market for the two-mile novices championship following an impressive win at Southwell in January over the decent Spiekeroog, a performance which followed his eye-catching debut over timber at Kempton Park on Boxing Day where the son of Dubawi shaped with tremendous promise in finish a three-and-a-half-length runner-up to the useful Tetlami, currently 16/1 in the online sports betting for the Cheltenham contest.
Well fancied at Newbury in mid-February in a hot novice contest, Vulcanite, (the only jumps horse in training for his owners Pearl Bloodstock Racing who have a number of very classy performers on the level), ran below expectations in being beaten seven-lengths into second place by Alan King’s Montbazon, another with Supreme Novice Hurdle aspirations and currently a top priced 12/1 shot. Longsdon has subsequently reported that Vulcanite returned home rather ‘under the weather’ in common with a number of his runners at that time, but is now back to his best and is expected to give a good account of himself at Cheltenham.
Longsdon admitted he had been bitterly disappointed to see his charge beaten at the Berkshire track as he is certain he is much better than appeared the case that day, and is looking forward to a re-match with his Newbury conqueror. Nicky Henderson’s Darlan, a faller when holding every chance two out in the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury, is currently the 7/1 ante-post favourite for the Cheltenham event.