Nicolle eyes Ascot at Christmas

Francois Nicolle could bring Alex De Larredya to Britain to contest the JLT Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot over Christmas.

Ptit Zig could clash with Alex De Larredya yet again

The six-year-old was last seen out when the very impressive seven-length winner of the G1 Grand Prix D'Automne over three miles at Auteuil in early November, when he had Ptit Zig (Paul Nicholls) back in third.

He reversed form with Ptit Zig, having been the two-length runner-up to that rival in the G1 Grande Course De Haies D'Auteuil back in June.

Anthony Bromley, racing manager to owner Simon Munir, commented: "The plan is for Alex De Larredya to go over to Ascot for the JLT Long Walk Hurdle.

"The long-term aim is to go for the Grand Course De Haies D'Auteuil again. He has run in September, October and November, so the Long Walk would fit into his programme as the final race before he goes off for a winter break.

"With the Long Walk being a Grade One, the conditions of the race suit him as a Grade One winner and so we thought we could keep him ticking him over for it.

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"Daryl (Jacob) will be going over to France to sit on him and school him over some English-style hurdles.

"Obviously, we have had to make the entry now just under a month away, but in principle if all goes well we will be coming over.

"He is an interesting horse in that he was second to Ptit Zig in the Grande Course De Haies D'Auteuil in June and then turned the tables on his rival last time out. It is going to be a tough-looking Long Walk."

There are 26 entries for the Grade One highlight including the now veteran Reve De Sivola (Nick Williams) who loves Ascot and the JLT Long Walk Hurdle. The 11-year-old finished runner-up to the great Thistlecrack in 2015 and won the race in 2014, 2013 and 2012. West Approach (Colin Tizzard), a half-brother to Thistlecrack, is another contender.

Yanworth (Alan King) is already a dual winner at Ascot, having taken the G2 Sky Bet Supreme Trial Novices' Hurdle (2m) at this meeting last year and the G2 Coral Hurdle (nearly two and a half miles) on his reappearance this season on November 19, when he saw off the persistent challenge of Lil Rockerfeller (Neil King) by three-quarters of a length. The six-year-old would be stepping up to three miles for the first time.

Unowhatimeanharry (Harry Fry) extended his unbeaten sequence over hurdles to six when taking the G2 Long Distance Hurdle over a similar trip at Newbury, when he had Ballyoptic (Nigel Twiston-Davies) six lengths back in second.

Among the Irish-trained contingent are recent narrow G1 Fighting Fifth Hurdle runner-up Apple's Jade (Gordon Elliott), who won G1 contests at Aintree and Punchestown in the spring but has yet to start over a distance further than two miles and a furlong.

The ever-powerful Willie Mullins team could be represented by last season's G1 OLBG Mares' Hurdle victor Vroum Vroum Mag and Shaneshill, who reverted to hurdles after finishing runner-up in the 2016 RSA Chase.

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