ATOURS was cut from 14-1 to 10-1 and 8-1 by Ladbrokes and Coral respectively for the Champion Hurdle after gaining a bloodless victory in the Agfa Hurdle here yesterday. The David Elsworth-trained gelding easily beat Land Afar and three other rivals.
Some of the interest in the race was removed with the withdrawal, owing to the fast ground, of Right Win. The victory will, however, have boosted Atours' confidence after three consecutive second places. Richard Dunwoody brought him to join Land Afar at the last and Atours ran on up the hill as his rival, having his first run since winning the same contest last year, tired.
Dunwoody said: "That will have done his mind the world of good. He travelled well and picked up well when I asked him."
There are still several Champion Hurdle pieces to be fitted together before the picture is complete. The ante-post favourite, Alderbrook, is scheduled to make his seasonal reappearance in the Kingwell Hurdle in 18 days' time at Wincanton - where Elsworth may take him on with Atours and possibly Muse - and Dunwoody's first-choice mount Fortune And Fame will oppose Champion second favourite Danoli and Hotel Minella in the Red Mills Hurdle at Gowran Park the previous weekend.
Elsworth, whose two other championship candidates, Oh So Risky and Absalom's Lady, are due out at Ascot on Wednesday, was delighted with Atours. He said: "He jumped so well - he's made only one semblance of a mistake in his last three runs - and he must go to Cheltenham with a decent chance. …