Celestial horizon shifts after debut fall
Paul Nicholls' four time-winning hurdler and Champion Hurdle runner-up Celestial Halo could find himself back over the smaller obstacles after he failed to complete on his chasing debut at Exeter yesterday.
In a much anticipated assignment for the six-year-old, he was sent off the 1/4 favourite to land the Best Mate Beginners Chase, but despite putting in a foot perfect display of jumping in the early stages, he came down when upsides in front at the fourth last.
Once rated 170 over hurdles in the season in which he ran Punjabi to a half a length of the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham, the former Triumph Hurdle winner may get another opportunity to go chasing but depending on a discussion with the horse's owner, Andy Stewart, Nicholls may opt to go back over hurdles.
"The horse is ok but it's not ideal obviously," Nicholls admitted shortly after the disappointment. "He was jumping well and he just stepped at that fence -- and that was one of his traits over hurdles was stepping at them -- that's what he did at Aintree."
The champion trainer added: "You don't get away with that over fences and it is back to the drawing board.
"Horses fall on their debuts over fences but are fine. I'll talk to Andy, he will have another school and we will see."
Ruby Walsh was keeping as positive a twist on things as was possible and said: "Better he did it there than in the Arkle. He jumped brilliantly but just caught the top of that one."
Nicholls, who has also watched subsequent chasing stars Kauto Star and Master Minded fall at Exeter in their early chasing days, concluded: "He could go back over hurdles. I just have it in my head that he is by Galileo and is not bred to be a chaser and might not take to it, but we'll see."
The race was won by Diamond Brook who was not only the beneficiary of Celestial Halo's fall but that of Rougham, who departed independently alongside the odds-on favourite at the fourth last.
Diamond Brook got the better of a tussle with 50/1 chance Jocheski and survived a lengthy stewards enquiry to keep the race.
Ladbrokes responded to the fall of Celestial Halo by taking him out of their market for the Arkle, while he was eased to a best price 16/1 from 12/1 by William Hill and the layers on Betfair made him a 14/1 chance this morning.
Meanwhile, William Hill have also included Forpadydeplasterer in their King George betting and make him a 16/1 chance after Tom Cooper earmarked the St Stephen's Day feature at Kempton as his "one cut at three miles this year."
Cooper is adamant of giving his stable star a chance to shine over the longer trip and claimed: "He gives himself every chance of staying and if he does, the sky is the limit with him.
"We just need to get one run into him first before he steps up to three miles."
That run is likely to come in the Fortria Chase at Navan or the Sinbad Testimonial 2010/2011 Chase at Cheltenham.