NICKY HENDERSON insisted on Sunday that the Stan James Champion Hurdle dream was still alive for Peace And Co after identifying an early-race collision as the most probable cause for his Cheltenham flop.
Last season’s Triumph Hurdle winner was pushed out from a top-priced 8-1 to 20-1 after trailing in last behind Old Guard on his seasonal return in the International Hurdle on Saturday.
But Henderson believes an incident which left the four-year-old with a cut to a hind leg prompted him to run too freely, rush into the lead too early and squander all chance of winning.
To lessen the chance of a repeat, in response the three-time champion trainer plans to fit Peace And Co with a cross-noseband to improve his breathing.
‘Lit him right up’
Henderson said: “He’s fine this morning and we’ll scope him tomorrow morning and make sure he gets a clean bill of health. But I think what did him was he got a nick on a hind leg when someone galloped into him very early in the race, which lit him right up.
“He didn’t get a chance to drop out and get settled. He wasn’t unrideable but he got the bit between his teeth and he was gone. If he’d been left alone at the back he would have been all right probably.”
Henderson added: “He’s got to learn to shut his mouth and breathe, and we’ll put a cross-noseband on him now. Fifty per cent of our runners run in them.”
Henderson said that he could not see Peace And Co returning until the new year, while of Hargam, who finished a good third in the International Hurdle, the trainer added: “Barry [Geraghty] was thinking two and a half miles and better ground could help him, so Aintree could be the place for him.”
The top three in the Champion Hurdle market are all trained by Willie Mullins, with Faugheen 5-4 favourite with the sponsor, followed by Nichols Canyon at 6-1 and Arctic Fire at 8-1.