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Australian challenger Big Blue on course for Unibet International Hurdle

Australian raider Big Blue will test his credentials in the £140,000 G2 Unibet International Hurdle (3.05pm), the highlight at Cheltenham on Day Two of The International on Saturday.
 
A classy performer on the Flat in France when trained by Andre Fabre, Big Blue has since enjoyed a successful spell in Australia under the care of Ciaron Maher and David Eustace, winning the 2018 ATC St Leger at Randwick and the Galleywood Hurdle at Warrnambool in May.
 
The seven-year-old finished third on his latest start in a staying handicap on the Flat at Flemington on 5 November, when he was ridden by Ryan Moore.
 
Maher reported: "I am happy with Big Blue. He has been here for around a month now.
 
"He had another schooling session in Lambourn last week and we were pleased with him.
 
"Whilst the International Hurdle isn't the easiest race to start off in, the handicapper hasn't given him a rating, so we have to start off in conditions events.
 
"I would have preferred a slightly easier contest, but we are looking forward to seeing how he gets on."

 

Big Blue with connections 

 

Big Blue enjoying the sea in Australia, pictures Cheltenham Racecourse

A handful of horses in recent memory have run at Cheltenham after racing over Jumps in Australia, most notably Specular and Zabenz.
 
Specular was purchased by leading owner J P McManus after coming second in 2003 Grand National Hurdle at Flemington, and subsequently finished ninth behind Hardy Eustace in the following year's Champion Hurdle.
 
Zabenz won three hurdle races in Australia, including the 2002 Grand National Hurdle, and a G1 chase in America prior to joining Somerset trainer Philip Hobbs. He ran five times at Cheltenham during his career, including when fifth behind Star De Mohaison in the 2008 RSA Chase. 
 
Big Blue is a 33/1 chance with Unibet for Saturday's contest. The betting is headed by unbeaten G1 JCB Triumph Hurdle hero Pentland Hills (Nicky Henderson), who will be making his first start of the campaign. 

Ch'tibello (Dan Skelton, 3/1 with Unibet), winner of the G3 Randox Health County Handicap Hurdle, and G1 Tolworth Hurdle victor Elixir De Nutz (Colin Tizzard, 9/2) also feature among the 10 entries.
 
Unibet International Hurdle, Unibet odds:
11/8 Pentland Hills
3/1 Ch'tibello
9/2 Elixir De Nutz
5/1 Call Me Lord
8/1 Monsieur Lecoq
10/1 Ballyandy, Gumball
14/1 Le Patriote
20/1 Umbrigado
33/1 Big Blue
WIN/EW 1/4 - 1,2
 
The highlight over fences on day two of The International is the £130,000 G3 Caspian Caviar Gold Cup (1.55pm), a handicap chase over two miles and five furlongs.

Ante-post favourite Riders Onthe Storm (Nigel Twiston-Davies) and top-weight Cepage (Venetia Williams), who filled the first two places in a valuable handicap chase at Aintree on 9 November, headline the 22 remaining entries. 
 
The International starts on Friday, 13 December, when the highlight is the £60,000 G3 BetVictor Handicap Chase (2.30pm, 14 entries) over three and a quarter miles.
 
The going at Cheltenham is:
Good, Good to Soft in places (Chase and Hurdle)
Good to Soft, Good in places (Cross Country)
 
The outlook is unsettled with up to 20mm by Thursday and further showers on Friday.
 
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