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Favourite to tune up for challenge.

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Harchibald, current ante-post favourite for the Smurfit Champion Hurdle, will have a couple of racecourse gallops to prepare him for his big day at Cheltenham.

Noel Meade's rising star has risen from relative obscurity since the start of the season, winning his last three races in good style, including the 'Fighting Fifth' and Christmas Hurdles.

The six-year-old was due to have run in the AIG Europe Champion Hurdle last month but was pulled out after Meade felt too much rain had fallen for his liking at Leopardstown.

"He had a quiet time after not going for the AIG, but we have just started to build him up this week," he said.

"The plan is to take him to the racecourse twice to work before Cheltenham, once at the meeting at Leopardstown on March 6."

WELL Chief is reported to be none the worse for his hard race in the totepool Game Spirit Chase at Newbury on Saturday.

The six-year-old was only second to Azertyuiop in the Grade Two race despite his 4lb allowance, a run which prompted some bookmakers to lengthen his odds for the Queen Mother Champion Chase.

Well Chief did not jump well early in the race and hit the fifth fence hard, a mistake trainer Martin Pipe thought cost him dear.

"The good news is he's OK this morning - that's the important part," he told At The Races yesterday.

"He left his hind legs behind at one fence. That didn't do him any good, and you can't do that in championship races, can you?

"We will give him a rest and get him ready for his next target."

Well Chief is now an 11-4 chance with Ladbrokes for the Champion Chase, with Azertyuiop and Moscow Flyer the joint 7-4 favourites.

DAVY Russell is "disgusted" after being jocked off leading Smurfit Champion Hurdle hope Back In Front.

Russell has partnered Edward O'Grady's charge in both his starts this term, but Ruby Walsh will be aboard the eight-year-old for the first time at Cheltenham.

"I'm disgusted really. It's just one of those things - it's the ups and downs. I wasn't given any reason for it but Ruby was available and Ruby rides him - that's it," Russell told At The Races.

Back In Front was second to Champion Hurdle favourite Harchibald in the Morgiana Hurdle in November before going one better to claim the Bula Hurdle at Prestbury Park in December.
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Title Annotation:Sport Racing
Publication:Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)
Date:Feb 14, 2005
Words:403
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