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Style De Garde takes another step on path towards Cheltenham

Smarkets Chatteris Fen Juvenile Hurdle | 2m | 4yo | RUK

Nicky Henderson bids to underline the formidable strength of his JCB Triumph Hurdle team when Style De Garde takes on four rivals in a traditional Cheltenham trial he won last year with subsequent Fred Winter runner-up Divin Bere.

Henderson saddled the first three in the Triumph Hurdle in 2015 when Peace And Co beat Top Notch and Hargam, and the markets suggest he could return to the festival with an equally powerful team of juveniles.

His dual Cheltenham winner Apple's Shakira is clear favourite for the Triumph at no better than 7-2, while last weekend's Grade 1 Chepstow winner We Have A Dream is disputing second favouritism at no bigger than 8-1.

The Highclere Thoroughbred-owned Newbury winner Style De Garde can still be backed at 25-1, but that will change if he can beat the top-rated Gumball, also a 25-1 chance and in the hands of Philip Hobbs, whose three Triumph winners include last year's standout juvenile Defi Du Seuil.

Henderson said: "I like the way he did it at Newbury and it was quite soft ground that day. He won one in France before that but he has got to step in company."

Hobbs hopes we will see a better Gumball than the one who was beaten pointless by Apple's Shakira at Cheltenham.

"I think Gumball might be suited by the flatter track. His jumping was very good when he won at Stratford, but he wasn't so clever at either Chepstow or Cheltenham. I think he's better than he looked at Cheltenham," he said.

Aiguille Rouge, ex-French like the two principals as well as the last two Chatteris Fen winners, is bidding for a hat-trick. Trainer Gary Moore won this race with Chris Pea Green in 2013, but this represents a significant step up in class for Aiguille Rouge after two wins at Fontwell.

Moore acknowledges the scale of her task but said: "It's a bit ambitious and she's going to have to up her game, but she's done nothing wrong and I like her a lot. The softer the ground the better."

The field is completed by two more French-breds in Embole, who is tried in a hood after racing keenly when third at Newcastle, and Esprit De Somoza. The Nick Williams-trained Esprit De Somoza is the only member of the five who did not begin his career racing in France.

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