A dual Grade One-winning hurdler last season for Philip Fenton, the seven-year-old sidestepped Cheltenham due to the controversy surrounding his now-suspended trainer, but has been given the green light to cross the water this year by current handler Sandra Hughes.
After getting his chasing career off to a flyer at Fairyhouse in November, he disappointed in both the Drinmore and Topaz Novice Chases, but fared better to finish fourth in the Flogas Novice Chase behind Apache Stronghold.
A potential rematch with the winner is on the cards in Cheltenham’s JLT Novices’ Chase on day three of the Festival.
Hughes said: “We were really pleased with him as he jumped exceptionally well, which is what we wanted to see.
“I don’t think we’ll get another run into him now, so the plan is to go straight to Cheltenham for the JLT.”
Meanwhilke Gilgamboa is unlikely to head for the Cheltenham Festival next month following his below-par performance at Navan on Sunday.
The high-class hurdler looked destined for the top of the novice chasing ranks after winning his first two starts over fences, but was firmly put in his place by the brilliant Un De Sceaux in last month’s Arkle at Leopardstown.
He was an odds-on favourite to get back on the winning trail in Sunday’s Flyingbolt Novice Chase, but was disappointingly beaten by rank outsider Rawnaq.
Gilgamboa holds entries in the Arkle Trophy and the JLT Novices’ Chase at Prestbury Park, but trainer Enda Bolger is in favour of giving his charge a break.
He said: “He seems fine this morning. He had a bit of a cut behind, but that wasn’t the reason he disappointed.
“He just ran very flat on the day. He’d seemed fine at home since Leopardstown, but Mark (Walsh) said he didn’t jump or travel with the same fluency as he had before.
“I think he needs a bit of a break now, so that’s the plan. I’d say it would be odds against for him to go there (Cheltenham).
“We’ll give him a break and bring him back later in the spring. He’s crying out for two and a half (miles) and I’m looking forward to next season with him.
“I feel sorry for the horse that he underperformed, but these things happen.”
First Lieutenant is in line for the Crabbie’s Grand National after trailing home last in the Hennessy Gold Cup at Leopardstown.
The Mouse Morris-trained 10-year-old has been ever-present in some of the National Hunt calendar’s top staying prizes for the last few seasons, but recent efforts suggest his talents may be on the wane.
He was well beaten at Down Royal on his seasonal reappearance and in the Lexus Chase over Christmas prior to his recent no-show and Morris is keen to freshen him up for a trip to Aintree in the spring.
He said: “I think we’ll probably go straight to the National with him now. I think he’s probably more of a handicapper these days than that (Grade One) sort of level.
“He’s had a lot of hard races over the years and he’s a horse who gives himself a hard race every time.
“He won’t go to Cheltenham this year. We’ll cheer him up and look to Aintree with him. It will be interesting to see what mark he gets.”
Another member of the Morris string who has been ruled out of the Cheltenham Festival is Rule The World.
The eight-year-old looked a top-class prospect when runner-up behind The New One at Prestbury Park a couple of years ago, but suffered a fractured pelvis the following month and has not quite managed to reach the same levels since. He is yet to score in three outings over fences this season and finished down the field in the Flogas Novice Chase at Leopardstown.
Morris said: “He ran a reasonable race up to the last fence the other day, but a lot of mine haven’t been getting home of late and he was the same.
“You have to remember he’s fractured his pelvis twice now and it takes time for them to get over things like that.
“He won’t be going to Cheltenham, but he might go to the Festivals at Fairyhouse and Punchestown in the spring.”
Part-owner Barry Fulton believes Ptit Zig’s fall at Ascot on Saturday could actually be a positive ahead of his bid for Cheltenham Festival glory next month.
The six-year-old notched up four consecutive victories over fences to cement his place of one of this season’s top novices and he was favourite to beat more experienced opponents in last weekend’s Betfair Ascot Chase.
Having come to grief at the ninth fence, it was too early to say what would have happened, but Fulton is hoping the tumble will teach Ptit Zig to brush up his jumping ahead of his intended appearance in the JLT Novices’ Chase on March 12.
Fulton said: “He seems fine. He’ll have a few days off now and then start cantering again and hopefully we’ll be going to Cheltenham.
“We learnt nothing on Saturday really, which was a shame. It would have been nice to learn a bit more about him.
“It was better for him to fall on Saturday than fall at Cheltenham and hopefully it might teach him to be a bit more careful as he does skim through his fences a bit. I seem to remember Denman falling once and Kauto Star did a couple of times as well. These things happen and they can sometimes learn from it, so hopefully that’s the case for Ptit Zig.
“You’ve got to jump and have that bit of luck. Hopefully we get that at Cheltenham – we live in hope.”