The Mouse Morris-trained horse chaser was under consideration for the £100,000 race 12 months ago, but connections eventually decided to head to Down Royal for the JNwine.com Champion Chase on the same weekend.
However, the nine-year-old was a disappointing favourite in Northern Ireland and Ampleforth-educated Morris is hoping to bring him to England for his return this time around.
The County Tipperary-based trainer added: “We’re probably going to go to Wetherby with him this year as he doesn’t seem to go too well in Down Royal.
“I’m very happy with him. He’s getting older now, so we’ll have to see how he bounces out this season. He’s a horse who never seems to run a bad race. He just has a habit of finishing second a lot. He ran in blinkers on his last run and we’ll keep them on.”
First Lieutenant has won over £500,000 prize money in a career yielding seven wins from 27 starts. His biggest win came in the 2013 Grade One Betfred Bowl at Aintree, a success which helped propel jockey Bryan Cooper to becoming retained rider for Michael O’Leary’s Gigginstown House stud.
Cooper, 22, is continuing to make a gradual comeback from the career-threatening leg injuries he suffered in a heavy fall at the Cheltenham Festival.
Though David Pipe’s Ryanair Chase hero Dynaste will bypass the Charlie Hall, this year’s Betfred Bowl winner Silviniaco Conti is an intended runner for champion trainer Paul Nicholls, while The Giant Bolster, placed in the last three Gold Cups, could feature for David Bridgwater.
Champion jockey AP McCoy remains on the sidelines after aggravating a shoulder injury, while recording his 150th winner of the current campaign at Wetherby on Wednesday last week. He is not booked for any rides until next Tuesday, further hampering his quest to ride a record 300 winners this season.
Malton trainer Malcolm Jefferson’s highly-promising Urban Hymn was second on his steeplechase debut at Carlisle yesterday. Duke of Navan won the race for the resurgent Cumbria yard of Nicky Richards.