Festival handicap likely for Alderwood

Alderwood could well go back down the handicap route at this season’s Cheltenham Festival after making it third time lucky over fences at Navan on Sunday.

Festival handicap likely for Alderwood

The nine-year-old landed the County Hurdle at last year’s Festival and went on to claim major novice prizes at the big spring meetings at Fairyhouse and Punchestown for trainer Tom Mullins and owner JP McManus.

He slipped up on his fencing debut at Navan in November and was then a good third at Fairyhouse before emerging from the fog to score decisively at the weekend.

While Mullins is not ruling out a tilt at the Arkle Trophy, it seems more likely Alderwood will be running in one of the handicaps when he returns to Prestbury Park.

Mullins said: “He’s in super form this morning. The race looked a bit of a slog but it hasn’t taken as much out of him as we thought it would, which is great.

“Mark (Walsh, jockey) said he jumped well and he was very happy with him all the way through the race.

“He settled better than he ever has done, so I’m thrilled with that and we’ll have a think about what we do now.

“Just at the moment I would be leaning towards going for one of the handicaps in Cheltenham, rather than the Arkle, but we’ll see.

“Frank Berry (owner’s racing manager) is away at the moment, he’ll have a lot of horses to sort out and we’ll have a chat and see where this lad fits in.

“I’d say he’ll run somewhere before Cheltenham, but where that will be I don’t know.

“There are a couple of races at Naas on February 10, one is a novice race and the other is a handicap, so he could run in one of those, but plans are fluid at the moment.

“I’m just happy he’s won, he’s taken the race well and I’m sure that once the spring comes he’ll improve again.

“I wouldn’t be worried to step him up to two and a half miles if that’s the way we decided to go.”

Alderwood is a 33-1 shot with Stan James for what looks set to be a fantastic renewal of the Arkle, but just 12-1 with the same firm for the Grand Annual.

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Join us for a special evening of Cheltenham chat on Friday March 12 at 6.30pm with racing legend and Irish Examiner columnist Ruby Walsh, Irish Examiner racing correspondent Tommy Lyons, and former champion jockey and tv presenter Mick Fitzgerald, author of Better than Sex.

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