Nicholls star emerges as Spirit possible

Jockey Ruby Walsh on Celestial Halo leads the field during the Smurfit Kappa Champion Hurdle last season
Jockey Ruby Walsh on Celestial Halo leads the field during the Smurfit Kappa Champion Hurdle last season

Goodwood toast to the retirement of Buckley

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Celestial Halo has emerged as a possible contender for Fontwell’s National Spirit Hurdle crown.

The Grade 2 contest, which takes place on Sunday, February 27, was won last season by Alan King’s Trenchant.

It was the Wiltshire handler’s second success in the £60,000 race, having landed the title with My Way De Solzen in 2006.

Five-times champion trainer Paul Nicholls has won most things in National Hunt racing but he is yet to get his hands on Fontwell’s most prized possession.

Celestial Halo would give him a leading shout this year, though, with the former JCB Triumph Hurdle champion returning to hurdles after two disappointing efforts over fences.

Fontwell fans will be delighted to hear the race is once again on Lough Derg’s agenda, too.

The double winner, who took the honours in 2008 and 2009, was a poor fifth when he went for his hat-trick last term.

But an encouraging display in the Holloways Hurdle at Ascot has buoyed trainer David Pipe.

He said: ‘He’s come out of it really well.

‘It was great to see him run such a fantastic race.

‘He’s an amazing horse and he may go to Fontwell for the race he’s won before, the National Spirit.’