Mark Walsh has been lined up to ride Jezki in Sunday’s StanJames.com Morgiana Hurdle at Punchestown in the event Barry Geraghty is unavailable.
With owner JP McManus’ retained rider Tony McCoy sidelined by injury, Geraghty is the obvious choice to partner the Jessica Harrington-trained six-year-old, having steered him to glory in the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham in March.
However, it emerged on Monday that Geraghty could be required by Nicky Henderson to ride at Cheltenham on Sunday and Walsh, who rides the majority of McManus’ Irish-based horses, will be on board if that is the case.
McManus’ racing manager, Frank Berry, said: “Mark will ride him if Barry can’t, so we’ll see what happens.
“The horse worked this morning and Jessica was delighted with him, so fingers crossed all goes well for the next few days.”
A mouthwatering fifth clash with Hurricane Fly remains on the cards after both horses appeared among six remaining contenders for the two-mile contest.
Jezki beat Hurricane Fly at Cheltenham and at Punchestown in the spring, but Willie Mullins’ 19-times Grade One winner had Jessica Harrington’s charge behind when winning his fourth Irish Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown and in the Ryanair Hurdle at Christmas time.
Hurricane Fly is set to bid for a third successive Morgiana triumph on Sunday.
Mullins said: “He’s been working well up to now and I think he’s at least as fit as he was last year.
“He’ll probably have to be a bit fitter if Jezki turns up, but that’s the way he is.”
Colin Bowe’s prolific mare Little King Robin remains a possible runner.
Pat Shanahan’s King Of The Picts, the Christy Roche-trained Lethal Weapon and Princess Leya from Mags Mullins’ yard complete the entries.
Meanwhile, the Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury remains a possible seasonal starting point for Nicky Henderson’s 2013 Cheltenham Gold Cup hero Bobs Worth.
The nine-year-old is nearing a return to action, with Henderson keen to give his charge a spin at Newbury on November 29 before a likely return to Leopardstown for the Lexus Chase, which he won last season.
“He’s good. We’re just creeping along,” said Henderson.
“We quite like the idea of a hurdle race and I’ve been minding that three-mile conditions hurdle at Newbury’s Hennessy meeting as a lead-in to the Lexus, which is where we’d like to go for our Christmas pudding.”
Bobs Worth’s potential Newbury rivals include Cole Harden, who was so impressive in the West Yorkshire Hurdle at Wetherby recently.
Trainer Warren Greatrex said: “There aren’t many races for him. There’s the Long Walk at Ascot, but he didn’t run that well there before and he’s probably better going left-handed.
“The other option is Leopardstown over Christmas but we’ll see how Newbury goes first.”
Jonjo O’Neill’s Crabbie’s Grand National hope Shutthefrontdoor is also bound for the Lexus Chase at Leopardstown.
Favourite in most ante-post lists and as short as 16-1 for the Aintree race, the seven-year-old kicked off his season in fine style with an eight-length win at Carlisle on Monday, and will now be stepped up to Grade 1 company.
O’Neill won the Lexus in 2011 with Synchronised, who then took the Gold Cup in 2012 before tragically suffering a fatal injury at Aintree.
As part of a media day at his Jackdaws Castle base yesterday, O’Neill also revealed Newbury’s Long Distance Hurdle on November 29 is the plan for the unbeaten More Of That.
Gold Cup contender Holywell will head to Aintree for a Listed Chase on December 6, while the Betfair Chase is the target for Taquin Du Seuil.
O’Neill reports Johns Spirit in prime condition as he goes for a repeat victory in the Paddy Power Gold Cup at Cheltenham on Saturday, which would emulate the exploits of Half Free (1984-85) and Bradbury Star (1993-94).
O’Neill’s inmate is rated 17lb higher than he was when defeating Colour Squadron by three-quarters of a length 12 months ago in the hands of Richie McLernon, but showed he was still on the upgrade when making a successful seasonal reappearance at Cheltenham last month.
“He’s in grand form and that may be why he likes cut in the ground,” siad O’Neill.
Evan Williams, meanwhile, has confirmed Paul Moloney will ride Buywise, while Adam Wedge will partner King Massini in the Paddy Power.
Elsewhere, Sire De Grugy heads 10 entries for the Shloer Chase at Cheltenham on Sunday after the race was reopened.
Gary Moore’s stable star was beaten by Kid Cassidy in this race last season before going on to dominate the two-mile division with victories in the Tingle Creek, Desert Orchid, Clarence House, Queen Mother Champion and Celebration Chases.
Module, who was third to Sire De Grugy in the Champion Chase, has been given an entry by his trainer Tom George, while Paul Nicholls is double-handed with Dodging Bullets and Rebel Rebellion.
Completing the list are Alan King’s Uxizandre, Richard Lee’s Grey Gold, David Pipe’s Poole Master, Simply Ned from Nicky Richards’ stable, the Evan Williams-trained Lancetto and Nigel Twiston-Davies’ Papradon.
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