Lucy Wadham is confident El Dancer will be a force to be reckoned with given suitable ground in the €100,000 Evening Herald Champion Novice Hurdle at Punchestown on Tuesday.
The five-year-old got off the mark over obstacles in a relatively minor contest at Plumpton on his penultimate start before springing a surprise in the Top Novices’ Hurdle at Aintree.
Wadham has been delighted with the gelding’s subsequent progress, and is full of hope he can prove that performance to be no fluke next week.
“El Dancer is all set for Punchestown and he has been in good nick since Aintree,” said Wadham.
“American Trilogy was giving us weight at Aintree but our horse won despite himself. He pulled too hard early on, then got knocked back in the race with a slow jump and stayed on from an almost impossible position.
“He is still learning and a little bit green at his hurdles. He jumps a little bit big but he is obviously improving with every run.
“He has always demonstrated he is a very nice horse at home and he cost a lot of money. He had quite good form on the Flat and, fortunately, it looks like he is going to make up into a really nice jumper.
“We want the rain to arrive – so long as it is good ground or softer, he will go to Punchestown. A little bit of rain would be ideal because he does not mind how soft it gets.”
El Dancer is one of 15 entries for the Grade One heat at the confirmation stage and looks certain to face the sternest test of his career so far.
Willie Mullins has left in Cousin Vinny, Kempes and Hurricane Fly, while Fisher Bridge Zaarito and Brendan Powell’s Shoreacres are other interesting possibles.
Emma Lavelle is also looking forward to pitching her high-class novice Bouggler into the Punchestown fray.
The four-year-old is unbeaten in two starts over obstacles, most recently rallying gamely to capture the Grade Two John Smith’s Mersey Novices’ Hurdle by a head.
The 90,000 euro Grade One Land Rover Champion Novice Hurdle next Friday is next on his agenda.
“Bouggler seems really fresh and well since Aintree. He has kept his condition, so the plan is to go to Punchestown with him,” said Lavelle.
“He has only had two runs over jumps this season but he had a break before coming to us off the Flat, so hopefully he will be fine to go there.
“I would be hopeful he is continuing to improve and that definitely stands him in good stead against some of the best of the novice hurdlers.
“He seems a pretty straightforward horse, so if he travels well and settles in, I would be looking for him to run a really good race.”