Winters keeps Fitz options open

Trainer Mick Winters is keeping his options open regarding whether to let Rebel Fitz line up in next month’s Stan James Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham.

Last summer’s Galway Hurdle hero has not been seen since he was beaten by Captain Cee Bee at Tipperary in early October, but Winters could not be happier with his eight-year-old ahead of a spring campaign.

“He’s fit and well and we haven’t made any definite plans for him yet,” said the County Cork handler.

“You don’t wish anything bad on any horse, but if Hurricane Fly couldn’t go to Cheltenham, we might just be on the boat. We don’t really know what to do yet. If all the big boys turn up we might give it a miss and stay at home.

“He might just come up a bit short against the top boys and you wouldn’t want him to go over to Cheltenham and have a very hard race and then bottom him for the rest of the season.

“There is a nice, valuable race in Cork the week after Cheltenham we could go for instead and there is always Punchestown and Aintree later on.”

Jessica Harrington meanwhile feels the ground at Cheltenham will determine whether Steps To Freedom runs in the Stan James Champion Hurdle after his win at Dundalk on Friday evening.

The seven-year-old was strongly fancied for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle last season but trailed home in 14th place behind Cinders And Ashes.

Steps To Freedom won a handicap at Dundalk in the summer and while he was found wanting in better class races, he returned to win in good style, with a tilt at the Champion Hurdle still an option.

The County Kildare handler told her website, www.jessicaharringtonracing.com: “He had course form and we went back there as there was nowhere else to go with him the way the ground is.

“He did it well and has come out of the race well. I was concerned that the trip may have been a bit short for him but he was the class act in the field and that showed.

“He has given us something to think about now in regards to the Champion Hurdle and we will see how the ground turns out at Cheltenham.

“I was very happy with him.”

Owner Dai Walters confirmed Oscar Whisky is likely to take his chance in the Ladbrokes World Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival next month.

Trainer Nicky Henderson and Walters have had many sleepless nights over the Cheltenham target for the dual Aintree Hurdle winner.

But after he ran a fine race to be touched off by Reve De Sivola in the Cleeve Hurdle over three miles, the World Hurdle is now preferred over another crack at the Champion Hurdle, in which he finished third in 2011.

Oscar Whisky was fifth in the World Hurdle last season but connections remain convinced the horse was not himself that day.

“He’s very well,” Walters said.

“We’ll wait and see what the weather is like.

“I’ll be fair to the public and say he’ll go for the World Hurdle, but I have paid £1,000 this week to leave him in the Champion Hurdle as things can change.”

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