Winters keeping options open for Rebel Fitz


RACING:It appears to be slight odds-against about Rebel Fitz lining up in the Champion Hurdle in March but the Galway Hurdle hero will still travel to Cheltenham at the end of this month for a vital recce that could have a decisive bearing on future plans.

Rebel Fitz’s habit of getting over-excited at the races means Co Cork trainer Michael Winters is planning to take his hugely popular stable star to Prestbury Park in a few weeks’ time when he visits the Brightwells Sales that take place after racing on Cleeve Hurdle day.

Quoted at 33 to 1

Rebel Fitz is quoted at 33 to 1 in some ante-post lists for the Stan James Champion Hurdle, and will be kept in the championship event at the next forfeit stage. Winters fears the race may come just too soon for the horse after a lay-off but this month’s trip away for Rebel Fitz could sway things.

“If he were to settle in and relax and enjoy himself for the three or four days we’re over there on this trial run, it would certainly increase our options for the future. If he holds together and goes novice chasing next season, it would be nice to know that he can travel if say we were to look at something like the RSA,” Winters said yesterday.

“It’s not that he’s a very bad traveller. It’s just that he can be very highly-wired when he gets to the races. When he won the Galway Hurdle he was quite okay but when he ran at Tipperary in October he was worse, looking at the big screen that was showing the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe and all that. But he will be left in the Champion Hurdle. Hurricane Fly looks out on his own, but the rest are all bunched together and if anything happened to Willie Mullins’s horse, you wouldn’t know what might happen.

“Our fella came back in the Saturday before Christmas and is in great order. He doesn’t take a lot of work, and his second or third run back is usually his best. But I just think Cheltenham might come a bit soon. Davy Russell though thinks the Aintree Hurdle is the race for him.

Stay at home

“But it wouldn’t bother me either if we have to stay at home. There are lots of good races here up to June including the Champion Hurdle at Punchestown which is worth a hundred thousand,” Winters added.

Rebel Fitz has run 15 times in his career, all in Ireland, winning nine, most memorably at Galway last August when beating Cause Of Causes in the big hurdle prize. He subsequently won at Cork but wound up his successful 2012 campaign with a defeat by Captain Cee Bee at odds-on in early October.

Rebel Fitz’s regular pilot Davy Russell was also on the betting agenda for Stan James yesterday when they made him an odds-on 4 to 5 favourite to retain his champion jockey title in Ireland this season ahead of Ruby Walsh.

Russell, runner-up five times before winning his first title last season, is seven winners ahead of Walsh (73-66) at the head of the Jockeys’ Championship with third placed Paul Townend on 48 winners. Walsh is an 11 to 10 chance with the firm to claim a ninth title by the end of the season in April with Barry Geraghty rated a 20 to 1 shot.

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