All that Jazz for Champion

JAZZ Messenger will head straight to Cheltenham for the Smurfit Kappa Champion Hurdle after pleasing Noel Meade when second at Gowran on Saturday.

The eight-year-old finished four and a half lengths behind Catch Me in the Red Mills Centenary Trial Hurdle, having previously taken third behind Al Eile in the December Festival Hurdle.

Meade also saddled Aitmatov to take second behind Kazal in Sunday’s Boyne Hurdle but has yet to firm up plans for that one, who also has the Ladbrokes World Hurdle as an alternative option to the Champion.

Meade said: “Jazz Messenger and Aitmatov both seem fine after the weekend and Jazz will head for the Champion now.

“That’ll be it for him now and he will head straight to Cheltenham.

“I don’t know what we’ll do with Aitmatov just yet. I shall discuss it with the owner and it’s a possibility that he might yet run in the three-miler.

“Nothing’s been decided for him though. He might not go to Cheltenham at all so we’ll just see what happens.”

County Meath-based Meade has only saddled one winner since the turn of the year, but feels his string are now gradually clicking into gear at an opportune time with Cheltenham on the horizon.

“Three of mine ran well over the weekend and we had three seconds from them so we’d be a good bit happier about things,” he added.

Meanwhile Meade's Muirhead, ante-post favourite with a number of firms for the Anglo Irish Bank Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, will arrive at Prestbury Park without the benefit of a prep run.

The five-year-old is unbeaten in a bumper and two runs over timber, the most recent of which yielded a defeat of Cork All Star in the Grade One Royal Bond Novice Hurdle in December.

Muirhead has the option of two contests at Cheltenham next month, but Meade is leaning towards the two-mile opener on March 11.

Meade said: “You’ll not see him before Cheltenham and he’ll go straight there, all being well.

“At the moment it’s gone to plan with him and it’s so far so good.

“He’s in both the Supreme and the Ballymore Properties race, but we’d probably go for the Supreme I’d think.”

Muirhead is available at a best-priced 12-1 with Sportingbet for the Supreme.

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