HAYDOCK stages one of their big jump meetings of the year on Saturday, and trainer Alan King has confirmed that Walkon will take his chance in the Champion Hurdle Trial at the Lancashire course.
King said: “It was always the target for him and he is going to need the run. He is a big, gross horse who is hard to get fit and he hasn’t run for the best part of two years.
“He severed part of his tendon when he won at Aintree and missed all of last season. It’s great to get him back to a racecourse but he is going to be rusty.
“He’s in the Stan James Champion Hurdle and the Ladbrokes World Hurdle but we need to see where we are with him. It could be a case of just ducking and diving this season and going chasing with him next year.”
Walkon is one of three horses from the King yard on the Champion Hurdle entry-list for Cheltenham in March.
King tasted Champion Hurdle glory with Katchit in 2008 and has three chances this time around with Mille Chief (20/1), Walkon (40/1) and Salden Licht (100/1).
Mille Chief was a decent juvenile last season and recently recorded a decisive victory in a Sandown handicap hurdle, while Walkon, the 2009 JCB Triumph Hurdle runner-up, has not been seen out since landing a Grade One event at Aintree in April, 2009.
Salden Licht, a Listed winner on the flat in France in his younger days, was the ready winner of a handicap hurdle at Exeter on New Year’s Day.
King said: “I think that the plan will be for Mille Chief to head to Wincanton for the Kingwell Hurdle on February 19. I had thought of returning to Sandown for the Contenders’ Hurdle two weeks earlier but I wouldn’t want to take Binocular on. I was thrilled with him at Sandown but there is still a long way to go with him.
“I was very worried about the heavy ground there and I think that he won despite of the going. He’s gone up 13lb for that win.
“His big day was supposed to be the Ladbroke Hurdle at Ascot in December but that fixture was lost.
“Salden Licht will head to Newbury for the totesport Trophy (February 12). He’s rated 152 now, which is not to far off Mille Chief, but he is a year older than Mille Chief.
“He is still a very good horse and he won well at Exeter. I don’t know whether he is up to Champion Hurdle standard but we will know more after Newbury.
Binocular heads 31 entries for the £370,000 Champion Hurdle. The seven-year-old is the 5/2 favourite with Stan James to retain his crown, having powered to a stunning three and a half length success over Khyber Kim (25/1 with Stan James) last year, and is one of five entries for trainer Nicky Henderson.
The J P McManus-owned Binocular confirmed his well-being with an authoritative victory in the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton on Saturday and is set to make his next appearance at the same venue on February 5.
Henderson’s entries also include the last two winners of the JCB Triumph Hurdle, Soldatino (33/1) and Zaynar (50/1), exciting French import Solix (50/1) as well as Oscar Whisky (14/1).