sport

Eckhart improvement expected

Meister Eckhart's owners are expecting a much better performance when he eventually returns to action.

Placed at both Cheltenham and Aintree in the spring, hopes were high the Flemensfirth gelding would be among the leading novice chasers this term.

The Alan King-trained eight-year-old made his fencing debut in a Grade Two event at Wincanton in November but nothing went to plan and he was pulled up after nearly falling at the second-last.

"His debut was a real shocker," said Stephen Price of owners Atlantic Equine. "I know now the race has worked out very well and it wasn't a surprise he didn't look like winning as he always needs his first run, but he went with no gusto and then with the nightmare with him slipping and sliding. It was one to forget.

"He's been given plenty of time and just before Alan decided to have a quiet week, he was on the verge of being entered again so hopefully he'll be out soon.

"Now Alan knows what was wrong with the horses he can start making plans again.

"What Alan then needs to decide is if he thinks he's top-class or not because the season is getting on. He'll be able to win an ordinary novice chase, but do we risk losing his novice status if Alan doesn't think he's capable of mixing it in the very best races, and I'm not keen on horses going to Cheltenham without much experience.

"What we do know is this horse loves Cheltenham and he travels so strongly we are unsure of his trip. What he did in the Coral Cup was amazing, racing on the pace the whole way - he set it up for Medinas really.

"If he wasn't to win next time over fences, we'd give some thought about returning to hurdles for the rest of this season, but he's a very exciting horse."