TOP Irish trainer Mouse Morris, who went to school at Ampleforth, faces several late calls over the targets for his main Cheltenham Festival contenders.
The going will decide the final destinations of Baily Green and First Lieutenant, although Rule The World is on target for the Ladbrokes World Hurdle.
Baily Green gave Simonsig a fright in the Arkle last year and his options are the BetVictor Queen Mother Champion Chase and the Ryanair Chase.
“He’s in good fettle but I don’t know which way we’ll go with him yet,” said Morris. “He wants good ground really, like he showed in the Arkle last year. Even though it was soft it was better than what he’d been running on all year.
“With First Lieutenant, he just can’t jump as well out of soft ground, we saw that in the Hennessy. We won’t be decided with him until very late.
“Rule The World goes on any ground, though. The form of his last win has been boosted, Dunguib won last week and Willie’s (Mullins) mare Upsie won the other day. You’ve not just got Big Buck’s to beat this year, though, it looks an open race, there might be Annie Power, too. It’s a hell of a good race this year.”
In other Cheltenham news, trainer David Bridgwater is already counting down the days until The Giant Bolster has a third stab at the Betfred Gold Cup.
The nine-year-old has finished second and fourth in the last two renewals of chasing’s blue riband. The Cheltenham course specialist then recorded an impressive victory in last month’s Argento Chase under Tom Scudamore to earn himself another crack at the big one.
Bridgwater, who saddles Wyck Hill for JP McManus in Newcastle’s Eider Chase, said: “He’s absolutely fantastic and as for any trainer with a fancied horse going to Cheltenham, the next three weeks are the longest three weeks of the year. We’ll keep the headgear on. We don’t want to be changing things at this stage, so fingers crossed.”
Meanwhile Nicky Henderson will decide Sprinter Sacre’s participation in the Queen Mother Champion Chase within the next 10 days. “He either runs in the Champion Chase or we put him away for next season,” he said. “He worked on Wednesday and I was pleased with him. He wears a heart monitor in all his work and he’s wired up to Newmarket. I have the results within an hour, it’s all perfectly okay.”
Trainer Dan Skelton feels Baile Anrai, runner-up spot in the Sky Bet Chase at Doncaster last month, can prosper on today’s betBright Chase at Kempton. He said: “This has been the plan since he finished second at Doncaster and he seems in very good form and hopefully goes there with a reasonable each-way squeak.”
Yorkshire Racing Club’s Cheltenham preview night takes place at Pudsey Liberal Club on March 4 at 8pm. Experts include Malton trainer Brian Ellison and Leeds-based commentator Gareth Topham.
Meanwhile, Catterick Racecourse’s Cheltenham preview takes place on Friday featuring, amongst others, Rebecca Menzies and Racing Post journalist David Carr. Tickets cost £10 and are available from the track.